Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Rain

Okay, I admit it. I hate the rain. Mostly, because I can't stay home, in bed, with a hot drink and a good book. I have to go out in the stuff. And it is messy.

Take today, for example. I had a meeting this morning, which I dreaded, because the weather predictors said that today a massive storm was coming in, a real killer. Inches of rain in one hour. I was practically crying when I got ready to leave the house.

But when I left, it wasn't raining. It wasn't raining when my meeting was over, either. I thought to myself, G-d loves me. He knows I hate driving in the rain and it's not raining.

Unfortunately, G-d changed his mind. Because later today, when I went to the lovely city of Silver Lake to pick up a video for my Physiology class, I can only describe the rain coming down as a hose pointed directly at and on my car. The puddles were so deep I thought small dogs, all the rage in this town, would surely be lost in them and drown.

Great pools of water had concentrated in every intersection and gutter in the city, but when I picked my son up from school at 3:45 pm, the end was in sight. We ran to the local library to pick up reading material and then we saw it: a beautiful rainbow. G-d's gift to us all. We both made the appropriate blessing, and I called home for my eldest to run outside and make a blessing.

I spoke to friends and family when I got home and we all made the blessing. Obviously, Hashem needs to hear us more. I guess if it's disasters that really gets the conversation going, I'd chose rain. Only good can come from it, after we all dry out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Found Without Being Lost

Okay girls, this is for you. My 12th graders, those lovely ladies who love to talk even when I'm talking, found me out. They read my blog.

Okay, let me make it clear. Or let me try to keep it simple. Teaching is my choice. I want to be in that classroom telling you everything I know about physiology. And I want to make it as easy as possible for you.

Some of you know that. You listen to what I have to say and you figured out how to do well in class. For starters, be quiet. Be respectful. You are going on to seminary, or, Heaven help us, marriage and children. Frankly, most of you are not prepared for either option.

You can take my advice to heart, and change. Listen respectfully in class, limit interruptions to a minimum. Don't take a 15 minute bathroom break, et al.

Or, you can disregard everything I say and then, well, I'll only have one choice. It's called a pop quiz. Every class period. No notes, no warning, no mercy.

Deep breathe. Yoga breath. I feel better already.

Eureka, I Found It

That's right - eureka, I've found it. Not gold actually, but the next best thing: Food 4 Less. I went there today to get the price of oil for a project I'm working on and was wowed by the expanse of food offerings.

Okay, I'm easily impressed. Big supermarkets (in this case, a warehouse) get me all excited with the endless possibilities of food products. I did manage to give a passing thought to starving people the world over, but I can't get over array of choice, and indeed, duplicity of items. I mean, if you're an albino Hispanic who likes tortillas baked with cilantro, you've come to the right place!

The processed kosher items are not terribly evident, thank G-d, but there's plenty of fresh produce, chips, soda and coffee to fill the frig and the pantry without breaking a sweat.

I think I've found my safe haven. My husband joked that I could practice my Spanish, which is true - without even opening my mouth. I could just read the product boxes.

Nothing like knowing your place in the world. Mine is eating 4 less. G-d bless America!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eating Jewish

One of my dearest school friends is engaged to a man who loves Jewish food. Jewish deli food, that is. Both being of Asian descent, I thought I'd help them out. So I invited them to lunch at a kosher deli in a Jewish neighborhood to ascertain if indeed, kosher was any different from kosher style.

Well, it isn't, but the food sure was good. The first course, by unanimous decision, was matzo ball soup. Oh yeah, perfect choice on a rainy, muggy day. Then my girlfriend had schnitzel while her boyfriend and I had the Jr. Burger.

Oh please. Talk about amazing. Hamburger, pastrami, grilled onions, avocado, and onion rings all between a hamburger bun, complete with a mayo and ketchup sauce. It was like dying and going to heaven. Please G-d, let me live long enough to have at least one more Jr. Burger.

When it was all over, I asked for comparisons. They loved the food, said it was as good or better than the kosher-style, and everyone left happy. But in truth, no one was more happier than me. Good friends make my world happen and I am blessed indeed.

*Photos by V.C.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cried Like A Baby

I have a tendency to be out of step with the rest of the world, which explains why I just finished Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Despite the fact that it was a best seller when it came out in 1989, and indeed, a well-received movie, I finally got around to reading the book. Kinda by accident.

At my local library, there's a separate bin on the way out for free items. I always check the bin, and about half a year ago, I found The Joy Luck Club in paperback there. As I am big on messages from G-d coming at me from all directions, I picked up the book and took it as a message from On High that it was time to read the book.

I know it sounds crazy, but there's no denying that if I hadn't found the book this way, I probably would not have read it.

Well, it was a great book. Unsettling at first, since the Chinese culture is so different from my own. But human suffering, well, that has no cultural boundaries, and I related to these women, generations actually, who suffered physically and mentally at both their own hands and the hands of others.

Then I made the mistake of watching the movie. Oh my gosh, cried like a baby. I knew it was going to happen, and thank G-d the children didn't see me because they feel I cry too much. But I was totally moved.

So if you haven't read the book (which I advise before the movie), don't hesitate. Tan is an exceptional writer, taking the stories of Chinese people and making them universal. But then again, we're all connected, all related anyway.

Some Thoughts On A Fast Day

Last night, I asked my husband to wake me up at 4:30 am so I could eat breakfast before the fast. Today is Aseres B' Teves, and right now, Jerusalem is under siege. Historically and literally. We still are not in complete possession of our holy city.

So it's 4:15 am and my husband asks me what time I want to get up. Can you guess? 4:30 am, I reply, which translates into 15 minutes.

Finally, my husband wakes me up by telling me, "hey Nana, it's 5:00 am." I leap out of bed, all the while complaining that I asked him to wake me up at 4:30 and now it's 5:00 and the fast beings in 30 minutes. So I blindly make my way into the kitchen, put on the hot water, pour cereal into a bowl and sit down to eat.

I wonder if it's easier to just fast 24 hours, versus getting up and breaking the fast to begin the fast. Because right now, barely four hours later, I'm starving - like I haven't eaten in 12 hours.

Oy, it's gonna be a long day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Day With Mom

Actually, the title of this post is misleading. I did not spend the day with my mom - I spent the day with my mother-in-law. She's the mother I chose. And it was great.

First, mom wanted to go to a movie and I said yes: The King's Speech. It was fabulous. We laughed and cried and loved the happy ending. It was sort of a high five to overcoming obstacles.

Fancy that - the former king of England, George VI, a poster boy for the Rebbe Maharash, who encouraged all who would listen to"L'Chatchila Ariber"--meaning, "In the first place, go over." Face life's challenges head on, and overcome them directly. Don't go around them. Don't go under them.

After overcoming the obstacle of parking, we enjoyed a deli sandwich lunch, in perhaps the oldest kosher, and indeed, messiest deli in town. I dare not mention the name because the food was fantastic, but the decor was, shall I say, less so.

A perfect day, and hopefully, only the beginning of many more. I have to smile when I picture my mom and me, complete with our very own movie club. Oh yeah.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Rain Stick

I finished my exercise routine this morning (lol), showered and sat down to breakfast when I noticed a really big stick leaning upright on one of the dining room chairs.

Like a fool I asked my husband what it was. His reply, no joke, was to ask me the same question. That genetic Jew thing of answering a question with a question has got to have its limits.

So I picked it up and it started making a tinkling sound. My smiling husband informed me it is a rain stick, duly purchased at a garage sale this very morning for $1. "Where," I exclaimed, "is the garage sale?"

Now the hub was refusing to come clean, but I persevered anyway, and got the location. Hopped on my bike, and rode over. Fifteen minutes later, I had a small digital clock, a pair of sterling silver earrings from Thailand and a wine rack. Not to mention a completely new respect for a bike rack, which I don't own.

I'm sitting here, looking at the time on my little clock, wearing my new earrings and hoping my husband will relent and mount the wine rack on the wall. Thank you G-d, for happiness. After yesterday's bad news, I know it's fleeting enough.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Paul Shin, O"BM

Two years ago, while in the throes of taking pre-recs for my Master's degree in nutrition, I was forced to take inorganic chemistry. Not that organic chemistry, also required, was any easier. But that's how I met my Koreans. One of those Koreans was Dr. Paul Shin.

Unfortunately, I use the word was because tonight I learned that Dr. Paul passed away. Truly a loss for all human kind.

My story with Paul began in Chemistry I, Los Angeles City College, Summer, 2008. We're talking a semester class condensed to 10 weeks. In other words, a train wreck. That's where my Koreans come in.

Actually, their names are Jim, Albert, Estel (my lab partner), Joanna, Kelly and Dr. Paul Shin. Despite my desire to give up, my Koreans wouldn't let me. They pushed me on, convincing me that I could make it, even to the point of figuring out my class point totals and how well I had to do on the final to pass. They are people I will never forget.

Paul was actually our lab instructor, and since we were the same age, we got each other's jokes. Paul was more like a friend, because he cared.

In fact, he cared enough to write me two letters of recommendation for the internship I applied to twice, and finally got. Paul was the kind of person you could not speak to in years and call up for favor, and it would seem like you spoke to him yesterday.

Well, I'm not going to have that option anymore. Because the man who joined us that summer after the course ended at a karaoke bar just to hang out passed away recently. And I only found out last night because Kelly sent out a facebook announcement to our group to let us know.

G-d has a plan, but in truth, I think He needed Paul's advice. He couldn't have asked a better guy. Rest in peace Paul. My world was truly a better place for you being in it.

Wow, How Time Flies

Before I knew it, finals were over. Wow. Time certainly flies, whether or not you're having fun.

Now, it's time to get serious. First, take a deep breath. Second, seize the day, beginning with the morning by taking a 30 minute walk. Third, shower, shampoo and shine.

The Winter quarter begins in a few weeks, but I've got to get my head straight. In other words, find a real job in the nutrition industry.

Until then, well, I'll just keep taking a walk.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some Things Are Sacred

Last night, my husband and I volunteered to handle the door at the shul Chanuaka party. That meant asking people to pay for entrance, and then convincing them that they really did want to buy raffle tickets for a wig.

The food was amazing, the table settings were quite beautiful, and the speeches inspiring. Then came time to play a game. They chose Jewish Jeopardy.

At first, I thought it was a cute idea. The categories were all local or about Chabad in general, and two teams of old timers participated. The Rav said no women were allowed. I kinda felt cheated, but as the questions were asked, it became obvious that I was out of my league.

And out of my mind. Jeopardy gives the answers, not the questions. And you have to start with the $100 questions and work your way down, not take them arbitrarily. From the sidelines I called foul. Jeopardy is a sacred institution in America. Messing with that game ain't right.

Oh sure, you can use your own answers, but you can't change the way the game is played. If a team got part of the answer right, they got part of the points. What!?

Okay, taking a deep breathe. Keep telling yourself that it was all for fun. All for laughs. That's entertainment. But still, messing with Jeopardy just ain't right.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who's Crazy?

I had a few errands to run this morning, and decided to renew my son's bus pass first. So off I went to the corner Metro office, which would do well to install a bar and grill - a true money maker with the long lines.

I tried to figure out if I should wait or not, since I had a doctor's appointment in 40 minutes. Then a guy gets in line behind me and starts asking me about bus rates for the disabled. I turned around to come face to face with a young man with a sweet smile, who promptly informed me that he was just back from Iraq and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychosis. Ouch.

I smiled back and thanked him for his service, all the while wondering what these diagnoses had to do with Iraq and just what the heck had happened over there. We figured out the bus pass, and then he asked the question: "what is psychosis?"

Never missing an opportunity to say something truly stupid, I replied, "psychosis means crazy. You ought to be a lot of fun on the bus."

Surprisingly, we both laughed at that. When I got home, I looked up psychosis. I probably should have said, with a big smile, that it's a "disorder in which reality testing is grossly impaired."

Actually, I prefer crazy. It's sounds truer to my life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not Quite With IT

Boy, do I feel stupid. And when I went to the doctor today, it was confirmed. I am stupid.

I mean, a person my age and weight (which I will not reveal) should not go about starting an exercise program like a 20-year old. Seriously. That only leads to trouble.

Trouble, that is, in the form of a damaged IT (Iliotibial) Band. Love the name. Hate the pain.

Here's what I found out about IT:

the iliotibial tract or iliotibial band is a longitudinal fibrous reinforcement of the fascia lata. It is attached to the anterolateral iliac tubercle portion of the external lip of the iliac crest and to the lateral condyle of the tibia.

Yeah, right. Whatever. IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) appears to be the most common injury to active people. In this case, stupid active people like me. For the time being, there's only one way to deal with it, and it's totally low buck. You guessed it, ice. That all changes with physical therapy, which should begin shortly.

For now, I can ride a bike, walk, swim, sit down. If it doesn't hurt doing it, then it's okay. Feet, you're all that's left. Don't fail me now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday

I allowed my son to convince me to wake up at 4 am Friday morning to take him, and three friends, shopping at the local mall. Am I stupid or what?

Black Friday doesn't mean anything to me. I don't covet much of anything I don't already own (okay, a brand new car). But shopping at that hour seems silly.

But you wouldn't have known my feelings when H & M finally opened. We waited in line, and I surveyed the crowd. Then I motioned my son over. At 15 years of age, he's bone skinny, but absolutely adorable.

H & M doesn't stock many pairs of pants in his size, so I told him to move fast. There were more than a handful of bone skinny guys in the crowd, not to mention there were a lot of guys waiting for a clothing store to open. What's up with that?

Guess guys also care about what they wear, and how much they pay for it. Cool. When it was all over (read: I wanted to go home) we got three coats, two pairs of pants, two sweaters, and a shirt for less than $120. Not bad, actually. Too bad it was only 6:45 am.

I then dropped the boys off at another mall, and reminded them they only had about an hour to go before school started. Then I went back home to prepare to teach my physiology class.

If getting up at 4 am wasn't bad enough, teaching my 12th graders turned out even worse. The question remains: What does G-d really want?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

. . .All Fall Down

I fell off my bike last night. In the dark. The first part sucks, the second part is a gift. What can I say? It really was my fault.

The driveway to my house is a small hill that has narrow strips of concrete interspersed with grass. I decided, wrongly, to ride up one of the narrow strips to the back yard. My bike slide off the concrete and down I went. Ouch.

Hurt my hand, my elbow and my knee, but thank G-d, the brunt of the fall was on my butt. So no damage. Seriously. That part I'm grateful for. The falling part I hate. Oh well. Such is life.

Happy Birthday and Thank You!

Happy Birthday to my friend Moav. And many more. Also, thank you, America, for being you. As a country, you're not perfect, but pretty close.

In my stats class yesterday, my professor began by talking about the recent flare-up in Korea. She is Korean by birth, and very anxious about the situation there. She had planned on taking her children, both American born, to the country of her birth for the holidays. But not now.

Surprisingly, nearly all the students, most of which are under 20, knew about the conflict and were quite savvy about just who the culprits are. I was quite impressed, and pleasantly surprised.

I add this little bit because something a simple as North Korea really makes you appreciate America. Thank you G-d. America is a great idea. Obviously Yours, by concentrating like thinkers in the 13 colonies in the mid-1700s. Sometimes it's just that easy to connect the dots.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lunching With Loshen Hara*

There's a kosher dairy restaurant just across the street from the school where I teach physiology to 12 grade girls. Last week, I enjoyed their Thursday lunch special of "your choice" fettuccini. Today, I couldn't get there fast enough to try their Tuesday lunch special: personal pizza.

Well, I should have waited. Because the pizza wasn't nearly as delicious as the pasta, and like the Model T, which came in one color, in this case, a choice of cheese only. Ugh.

The restaurant was small, so that meant that I could hear the "older" neighbors across the way, who did nothing but complain about their ill parents, and go on about all the other relatives with horrible problems.

It was a double disappointment - the taste of the pizza and the taste of bad speech. But, like I always say, there's a message here. Let's hope I watch my words as well.

*loshen hara: bad or evil speech. Some have interpreted this more stringently, as any talk, good or bad, about another.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Mutual Kingdom

My son came home the other day with a DVD of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. One of his rebbes (teachers) is a nature freak, and I should be grateful: at least he didn't bring home a baby chicken or long dead animal.

When I saw the DVD, I was suddenly 10 years old again, it was Sunday night, 7 pm and dinner time meant we could only watch one thing. That's right - Wild Kingdom.

We watched that show as a family for years. It got to the point where I zoned out. But I do remember Marlin Perkins, the wild critters and the self-serving Mutual of Omaha commercials. I mean, is it possible to have enough insurance? Only M of O knew for sure.

As I got older, I realized that Wild Kingdom was up against Disney, and we never watched Disney. It never occurred to me to ask my father why. Later, as an older adult, I realized the Walt was an anti-Semite, much like most non-Jews of his time. Perhaps that was the reason.

Perhaps it was due to dad being a city boy, born and raised, who really appreciated the natural world. Doesn't matter. I've seen plenty of Disney since. Ah, the memories.

More Thoughts On Organizing

I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a purse organizer, and mission accomplished. I felt empowered.

Then I went to my mother-in-law's house for pizza Sunday night and got a crash course in purse organizing. According it Bubbie, it begins with buying the right purse. Which, she pointed out, I had not.

It was like sitting at the feet of the master. I sucked it all in, made big plans for transferring her organizational skills into my own life and making my purse work for me.

When I got home, I did just that. Found a phone case, clipped it on the inside of my purse onto a pocket. Found a climber's clip, a little chunky, but definitely fits my keys and the ring end of my purse. Nice lime green too.

Am I happy? Oh yeah. Am I on my way to BBB to return my now, superfluous purse organizer? You bet. Will I buy something else instead? Probably.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting Grouchy

When I plan out my day, I budget my time accordingly. So when change happens, I get put out. Pissed off. Grouchy. It's my bad, but my reality too.

Such is today. I planned to work with someone on a project this morning, and cleared the deck, so to speak. But something happened and this someone else can't make it until this evening. A normal person would smile and say, "oh well, I'm still alive!"

I'm not exactly normal. So right now, I'm Nana the Grouch. And I happen to be wearing green. Not a coincidence, I'm sure.

I also get a little grouchy when I finish a good book, which I did in the wee hours of the morning. Shabbos is my day off from the secular, but not motzei Shabbos, so I finished up Kathy Riech's latest, Spider Bones. Loved it, as usual.

So perhaps I should change the color of my clothes and start my day over. And keep telling myself, "it's okay. It's all good."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bring On The Snaps

On my way home last night, walking with two classmates, I got nostalgic for the old days. The days when there were only 8 channels and you watched the corniest commercials ever. Like the one I was pining away for last night.

It all began when my dear friend Moav stopped suddenly on our way to the parking lot because she couldn't remember where she put her wallet. So she set down her big purse/bag and starting rustling through it until, thank G-d, she found it.

Like a therapy session gone wild, we three started trading true confessions about how our purses were inadequate and how we can never find anything in them. Then it happened. The pining away, that is.

Thirty-odd years ago, there was a commercial for this vinyl purse where everything you owned could be snapped in. As a young thing, the very thought of snapping anything other than clothing seemed gross, so I prayed that I would never get old and need such a purse.

Some prayers don't get answered. That prayer was one of them. I am old and I need that purse. I need to snap in all my belongings, and I need it now. Complete with embroidered initials on the outside. Bring it on!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Best Buy

Went to Staples this morning, early. Kinda a dry run for Black Friday, which part of me hopes never to engage in and part of me can't wait for.

I bought a laminating machine, something I've always wanted but just never could find at the right price. Well, bingo baby. I bought a $99.99 laminating machine for $29.99 this morning. My world is about to become encased in plastic.

I've gotten it into my head to create a 3x5 note card notebook with all the information I need to be a practicing registered dietitian. For that to happen, and the note cards to survive, they would need to be laminated. Considering the going rate for such services is about $4 for 6 cards (granted, that's front and back, so 12 images), I think this puppy may pay for itself in the long run. Especially since I can think of lots of things to laminate.

Watch out kids. Mother's mind is a working! Look out free world, my brain's a buzzing. The possibilities are endless.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The End Is Kind Of Near

I'm freaking out. I'm in the 8th week of a 10-week quarter and the end is kinda near. I can't seem to focus on what to do first. So I copped out. I decided to write this.

No excuses. I work better under pressure, although my face breaks out. I start scratching myself and getting irritable. But still, the final product is always worthy of high praise.

I especially like teamwork. Working with Maria and Moav is a piece of heaven. Right now, we're writing a counseling script for a patient with hypertension. When we act it out, that patient will be me.

Right now, before I actually become that patient for real, I need to take a deep breath and know it will all be okay.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hidden Miracles

It's an hour and a half before Shabbat and I can barely keep my eyes open. This week has been extremely tough. Two midterms, one Yom Iyun (teacher in-service day), a major trip downtown and back by bike and bus. And then there's Dr. Tam's other midterm due next week.

Even though I am exhausted, I can see the G-dliness in our world. I took my daughter to the massive kosher market in the Valley (think Ralph's with only kosher food, fresh and packaged), and we enjoyed our trip down the aisles deciding what to eat on Shabbat.

Spoke to two dear friends by phone who I don't see very often and it was great to hear their voices. With Veteran's Day off, I got to see my children in the evening. I could go on, but Shabbat is knocking at my door.

After I take roll in the high school physiology class I teach Tuesdays and Fridays, I give each girl a turn at reading a short chapter from "Bringing Heaven Down To Earth," an amazing book of short thoughts all taken from the Rebbi by Tzvi Freeman. The girls love it, and vie for their turn to read, which goes in row order.

Today my student read about hidden miracles, and I really related to it. If we were to sit down and just think about all the hidden miracles that happen to us, we would be more impressed with our Creator.

Hard to imagine being more impressed, but it's true. Try it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Penny For Her Thoughts

While waiting for the eye doctor to see me today, I saw another penny laying on the ground. Without a thought, I picked it up. There was an old lady sitting right across from me and I told her plainly, "I have to pick this up."

She looked at me and said, "It's really cold in here. Are you cold?" I assured her I was cold, put the penny in my pocket, and went back to studying. How weird is that?

Whose The Blind One?

I decided to ride my bike and take the bus everywhere I needed to go today. That meant to the eye doctor and then to the city of Commerce to take care of some business.

I got as far as downtown LA where I waited for the bus to take me to Commerce. There was another man waiting for the another bus at the same stop and we got to talking. I asked him what bus he was waiting for and he told me. It just seemed so natural to reply, "okay, I'll keep my eye out for it."

The minute that left my mouth I felt like an idiot. Because the man waiting for the bus right next to me was blind. White cane blind. I apologized right away, but the man, a truly good-natured soul, thought it was funny.

But even though he laughed it off I felt really bad for being so insensitive. So when his bus came, I not only shouted it out (don't ask), but led him to it. Kinda like redemption for the past deed.

I could excuse my behavior by saying I'm tired and wasn't thinking. But it's really all about being sensitive to other people and their situations. Bottom line: gotta keep working on myself.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Step In The Right Direction

Even with all the drama of the last 24 hours, I decided it was high time I did something nutritionally sound for my family. So when it was 9:30 am this morning (or 10:30 am, depending on how attached you are to standard time), I took my daughter and went to the corner kosher grocery to buy some food.

That included 4 different kinds of fruits, 2 different kinds of vegetables, a couple of breakfast snack bars (G-d forgive me!) and bagels. The latter item I bought for my two sons who can't seem to get enough food and want something quick. Or is it the other way around?

Whatever. Now there's enough nutritious snacks to make everyone happy. For now.

After All Is Said And Done

I decided last night to work late on my homework, get up early, and again chip away at it. All because I knew that this afternoon I would spend my time crying and comforting the people around me when we buried a young man whose accidental death sent the community into a tailspin this Shabbat.

It was brutal. First, the levaya at the yeshiva where the young man spent so much of his time, and where three rabbis tried, but failed, to make sense of a senseless death. Then the boy's father got up to speak, and the crying from the women's section was so loud that we could barely hear his words, often drowned out by his own tears.

First the women, and then the men, left the building and followed the hearse down the street before it took off for the cemetery.

Then the burial. Hundreds waited for a third sister, whose plane had just come in from England, to arrive before lowering the casket into the ground. Please. The first sounds of dirt hitting the coffin (by city law, the dead can be buried in shrouds but then placed in coffins before being interred) were too much for us and we started again to cry .

After the men had left and the mourners were comforted by walking through a line men and women on either side, I went to the new grave site. It seemed so cold in its newness. Then my friend Chava called my attention to the sky - it was vivid pink, purple, gold and gray. in other words, beautiful.

It was as though Hashem Himself was welcoming our young bochur home.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where Do I Begin?

There is no beginning to heartache. And that's how I feel right now. Not 30 minutes before Shabbat I learned that the 23-year old recently engaged son of a member of my congregation died Erev Shabbat after scuba diving. This will be the FIFTH child this couple will have buried in the last 18 years.

I've cried, I've screamed Ad Motsei! (Enough) and cried again. The young man is gone, no doubt taking his seat under the Throne of Glory, since Erev Shabbat, the gates of gehinom are closed. It's the parents that I, and many of my friends, worry about now.

Dear Hashem, in all His glory, I beg of you. For all of us who remain in these last few moments before redemption, please allow these two people who have suffered so, to smile again, to laugh again, to live a normal life. Amen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Office

I got to school early this morning, put my bike away in its locker, and headed for my office on the third floor of the library. When I got to the library's entrance 5 minutes before it opened, I told the guard on duty that I needed to go to my office upstairs.

Without a flicker of a smile, the guard informed me that I didn't have an office, I had a cubicle.

Excuse me, I thought to myself, but the walls of my office extend nearly to the ceiling, and the DOOR locks, leaving my completely enclosed, with no one else in sight.

I smiled and I told her it was my office. "Cubicle," she responded. I leaned in real close. "I like to call it my office," I told her. "It makes me feel big."

I then turned on my heels and headed upstairs. To my office.

I Did It

Well, I did it. I picked up a penny off the floor of the bookstore. Perhaps the spell is broken. I can now walk free and not see another penny, laying there motionless, waiting for me.

Dear G-d,

Whatever I did to deserve penny penance, please forgive me. If it is Your will that I pick up pennies, then so be it. I'm here for you. Just do me a favor. Be here for me!

L, Nana

"Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you'll have good luck."

I Hate To Wait

People in cold climates, ignore my rant. Because it is so hot here, it's made the record books.

Seriously, 97-degree Fahrenheit is not normal for the 3rd of November. Sure, the big joke is we can spend Hanukkah on the beach, but this is sick. Everyone is miserable. There's no avoiding the searing sun unless you stay inside. ALL DAY.

My friend Vickie and I decided to get some free help from the research department here at Cal State. We waited a half hour before giving up. There was no sign up sheet, no indication that help was forthcoming any time soon. I just lost my patience.

After we retired back to my cubicle/office, Vickie, wilting quickly, looked and me and said, "at least it was air conditioned."

Yes, thank G-d is was air conditioned. Any wonder why my brain was fried today?

Brain Drain

Today, my brain was tired. I managed to drag the rest of my body around, but found I had a hard time focusing on what I needed to do. My mind was just not working.

Which really isn't the way I should spend the one longest day of the week in school. What a bummer. Least I spent it with the people I love to be around - Maria, Moav, Vickie and the gang. But seriously, I need to get productive!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Am I Getting Paranoid?

Okay, so I mentioned before that G-d speaks to me and I get the message and usually change my ways or whatever. But there's another message coming at me and I can't figure it out at all.

For the past month I've been seeing pennies on the ground. Everywhere I look, there's a penny. On the sidewalk, in the street, near the stairs. You name the place, and chances are I'll find a penny there.

Now, I won't pick them up on principle. I hate all those Jews and a penny jokes, and they've scarred me for life. I had a reprieve a few years back, when a Catholic professor I worked for told me he always picks up coins on the ground. But lately, I get that icky feeling every time I see a penny laying there. In wait.

I was motivated to write this today because of the last straw: I was riding my bike and saw a brand new, shiny penny in the road, just crying out to me.

Okay, Holy One, I promise to pick up the next penny. I promise to work on my fears and disgust of the stereotypical Jew pinching pennies and pick them up. Please, give me strength I need to make it happen!

Dearest Debbie

It's truly a gift to have one great friend. In this regard, I have been blessed with much more. But one friend in particular needs an honorable mention. That friend is Debbie.

When my sister said she could not attend my son's Bar Mitzvah kiddush, I was very sad. Debbie sent me one of her funny emails that night and I wrote her back with my tale of woe. She responded immediately, offering to do whatever needed to be done. In other words, act like a sister.

Debbie came dressed to kill on Shabbos, looking amazing. In fact, she looked like the Bar Mitzvah's mother, which made me feel glad that one of us had thought to dress up. I had asked her to sit beside me during the meal, and there she was, entertaining everyone at the table while I sat there, overwhelmed. My mother-in-law mentioned to me afterwards how cute she thought Debbie was, and had also appreciated her upbeat, kind manner.

So here's a shout out to you, Debbie. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What's It Gonna Take?

While I do understand a lot of concepts, I don't understand why the 12th grade girls I teach can't shut up. Granted, physiology is not the most exciting subject to some people, but, heck, it's got its merits.

Those merits include understanding your body and how it works. If they taught that to me in high school, I don't remember. But I certainly didn't talk OUT LOUD while my teacher was talking. What's it gonna take to shut them up?

Any thoughts or suggestions, please write.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mazel Tov Mendel

This morning, my former 12-year son became my 13-year old son and you know what that means: Bar Mitzvah!

Yes, that's right. My Menachem Mendel became bar mitzvah this morning alongside his father and three other brothers (a fourth had a flight delay), and the congregation of a local synagoge. All told, about 15 men, one boy (younger brother Moshe), a little sister and mom.

Mendel said his bar mitzvah mymer, a tradition among Lubavitchers, while the rest of us feasted on bagels, cream cheese, lox and assorted salads, offering enough glucose to fuel our brains, our bodies and the city's DWP. The grand Bar Mitzvah kiddush is scheduled for Shabbat.

Thank you G-d, for allowing me to live to see such wonderful children. And thank you G-d, for the invention of elastic. Amen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Workout Flunkout

I hate to admit another thing, but this exercise plan of mine is killing me. Two days a week at my school's state of the art gym on a state of the art elliptical is proving to be a challenge. At my age, walking is a big deal. But 30 minutes on that machine in a room full of 20 year old students all working out to quick tempo rock music is starting to get to me. And I don't mean the students or the music.

First of all, it wipes me out. A few years ago, I actually could do this for an hour. I'd read and the time would fly by. And there I was, thin.

Not today. The shower in the gym refused to get warm, so it was a quick one. I decided that I could sneak out of the stall and finish dressing by my locker, but realized my mistake too late. On the way there, I ran head first into a gigantic, full length mirror. I wanted to toss my cookies right then and there.

Bottom line: I need help. The kind of help you get from professionals. People who make you keep a food diary, count calories, make healthy food choices. The kind of people I'm currently studying to become.

I joke around that when I'm an registered dietitian, I'll be my first client. Truth is, I don't think I can wait that long. I need to be my own first client right now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

(Dis) Engaging The Day

Stress is where you find it. Sometimes I find stress in waking up in the morning. Like today.

My appointment date for choosing Winter quarter classes began this morning at 6 am. Yet, by 5:50 am, I was still laying in bed, trying not to engage the day. Then I heard my phone receive a text message, which meant my friend Vickie was urging me on, and I knew that was it. The hour of engagement had arrived.

So I struggled out of bed, grabbed my laptop, and booted up. By 6:10 am, I had everything that I wanted except for one class - the one class I had been waiting for all school year (2 months). The computer wouldn't let me sign up because my prereq, statistics, isn't complete. That meant I needed a permit from my department to proceed.

Oh please. It would probably be easier and faster to have elective brain surgery. I called my department at 8 am to get the ball rolling and by 11 am had my permit to add the class. See what I mean about elective brain surgery? If I had started at 6 am, I would have been in and out of recovery and home by 11 am.

The point of this rant? No point. Just musings on the concept that you can't fight city hall. You gotta blow it up. Sorry, just having a Berkeley-anarchy moment. Kinda refreshing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Sharper (And Bigger) Image

I am embarrassed to say that if it hadn't been for a mikvah trip I took a few months back, I would never have given much thought to two-sided hand mirrors. Where have I been all my life?

When I say two-sided hand mirrors, I am, of course, referring to the mirrors with magnification on one side and normal viewing on the other. Oh my gosh, do they come in handy.

So I bought myself one today. I could not believe the choice involved and the price range. Bed, Bath and Beyond must have had at least 20 different varieties and prices to choose from. Needless to say, I didn't invest the family savings, but got one that should suit my needs (hair removal) quite nicely.

My Bad Dream

Granted, I went to bed late last night (12:30 am), which would account for my husband having to wake me by phone at 6:35 am this morning. But I woke up with such a start that I literally didn't know where I was for a few minutes. All because of a bad dream.

Right away I knew where the dream came from. This past Shabbat, a dear friend told me she flunked out of nursing school. My heart broke. Her options are that she fight it, but if she loses she has no recourse, or lay low and wait for someone else to flunk out, which would leave a space open for her to come back and redo the offending course.

She was one of two people to be booted out of school. I know what she went through to get this far - most of my fellow students doing prerequisite classes were nursing students. It just seemed so unfair.

In my dream, I was one of two to flunk a test, and hence lose my dream of becoming of registered dietitian. I was mortified.

Like all things, time has a way of healing, and as the morning wore on and I became involved in other things, the dream faded further and further from my mind. But nearly 12 hours later, I can still remember it vividly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Getting Things Done

I have this fantasy that all my homework is done, all my coursework completed, all my stuff handled. In my dream world, I have no deadlines, no obligations, no stress.

I also would have no life. Part of getting things done is the challenge of making it all work out. Of planning time wisely, using it to the utmost advantage, and then feeling like it's a great accomplishment getting finished with a task.

I don't know. I finished a recipe modification this morning weeks ahead of schedule. Feeling kinda weird about it. Like I should be stressing but I'm not. I think it's a good weird, though.

The difference between being a master's student and a regular student is being able to define time. Your time. I worked a long time to get here. It just feels right.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Mornings With Yitzy

Every Thursday morning for the past two months, I've been driving my oldest son Yitzy to his college class. By the time I finish girls' carpool in the morning, I'm half way there, so I just go the extra 8 miles to Santa Monica College.

I must admit: I really like my kids. I mean, through no effort of mine, they turned out (and are turning out) okay. Like the kind of people I could spend time with. It warms my heart.

So every Thursday morning, I have 30-45 minutes of pure Yitzy, awake or asleep. Being the mother, I'm used to spending time with my kids in the car when they're sleeping. In fact, there was a time when I used to pray for it.

Sometimes I tell him stories about my day, or we listen to music, or he tells me things. Usually the latter only when I pry, or ask nicely. But the point is, I like Yitzy as a person, not just as my son. I feel that even if he were someone else's son, I would like him as well.

Thank you G-d, for the challenge of these children, and that despite my mistakes, I have what to be grateful for.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mazel Tov Matti

In my capacity as a proud parent, I announce to everyone that my son Matti (Mattisyahu), just 16 years old, has successfully passed the GED after three years of yeshiva. The yeshiva he went to offers students who pass the GED a high school diploma. I feel like my grandmother must have felt 70 years ago when her kids got theirs.

Actually, English was not her native language and back then, a high school diploma was really big news. It meant the difference between getting a hack job and something that could pay you some money.

Despite all the years that have passed, a high school diploma is a big deal. We have a high drop out rate here in Los Angeles, in part I think because we have such a high immigrant population and it's hard for parents to struggle and help their kids with homework in a language they can't understand. Which makes the efforts of my parents even more amazing.

Mazel Tov Matti! I'm proud of you. From strength to strength. May G-d bless you and the rest of us. Amen.

Two Mid Terms in One Day

Yes, that's right. Been up since 3 am. The stress involved in taking a test is overwhelming sometimes. Wish I could bypass all that and just go straight for the scantron. Yet, somehow I survived two midterms in one day. Survive means that I am still alive. Did I pass? Sure hope so.

Another 4 hours until my next class means I am free to do anything I want - provided it's on campus. And there's plenty to do. Sit in my office and surf the web. Get up and walk around my office, then sit back down and surf the web. Walk around campus in the rain. Get out of the rain and stand or sit somewhere else. Decisions, decisions.

But what I really want to do is work out at the gym. Despite the rain, I will walk all the way over to the gym (about 20 paces) and plop down on a elliptical, with the mantra: you only lose weight if you lose calories.

Feet, don't fail me now!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shopping For Sports Coats

My son Shlomo is tall and very thin - and in need of a sports coat. Like most kids his age (14), he has an affinity for H&M and wanted a coat to match the pants he got there a few months back.

Well, we found something, although the smallest size they had was still a little big. When we saw the price tag, we both choked. $130 - which seems like a lot then but the night was young.

Next we went to what turned out to be a British store where the sports coat, also too big, was double the price. The thoughtful saleswoman offered Nordstrom's Rack as the answer, so we quickly ran there. Um, let's just say prices were higher but you got pants too.

Last, we went into Men's Suits Outlet, a small store we saw from the street. An extremely buxomy saleswoman stepped forward to help, but when she saw my son's yarmulke, she tried pulling her shirt up to cover herself. No such luck.

But she was sweet and helpful, even though the only suit jacket she had for him didn't work out. All I could think about was with her outfit (mini skirt, open, tight fitting shirt, push-up bra, et al), she must be the highest salesperson on record.

And it didn't bother me. Use what you got. In her case, use what G-d gave you. Just wish we had found what we're looking for.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Striking Out

Shabbat is ending earlier every week, but alas, not early enough for a shopping expedition to the local mall. Stocking but true, the Beverly Center closes at 8 pm on a Saturday night. I mean, why not roll up the sidewalks as well?

With two of my sons in tow, we parked at the Beverly Center at 7:55 pm, not knowing that all we'd get from the experience is a minuet amount of calorie burning. The oldest son present is a big fan of H&M, and wants (me) to buy a sports coat from there to match the pants we got him about a month ago which shrunk and now fit his entirely too skinning frame perfectly.

But they were closed. We went to American Eagle, which doesn't have sports coats but does have an assortment of, in my opinion, overpriced clothing, which did stay open a little later and the sales people were sweet.

We left the Center and I offered to treat my boys to a latte smatte at the local kosher Coffee Bean, but they were, you guessed it, closed. So onward we moved to Starbucks, which doesn't have kosher latte smattes, but the non-Jewish staff were sweet and very apologetic. No need, guys, we'll live.

Finally, it was time for the kosher pizza store, which was not only open but mobbed. I sent the boys in, and sat in the car to witness the local hasidic version of a biker on his chopper chasing down a group of bicyclists on the sidewalk. How weird is that? With that inspiration, I hopped out of the car and went out to retrieve the boys, only to find about a dozen people in line with the same intent. My older son offered to walk home with his food.

By the time I got back to the car to leave, my son was running after me carrying his pizza slice. So an hour and a half after we began our search for a sports coat, we ended up with a slice of pizza and were back where we started from. Ah, there's no place like home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Be Prepared

The longest day of my life lasted twenty minutes today, as a school-hired observer sat in my class to observe me. Completely unaware that he was coming today, and assuming that my high school girls would talk away the 45 minutes I get to teach them physiology, I under-prepared. But with the observer sitting there, and the class was deathly quiet, I had to improvise.

Nervous as I was, I knew I had to stall. I was being observed for teaching style, and style it was. I over-explained, lengthened, elaborated on every point, had the girls read the slides out loud. You name it.

When the observer left after 20 minutes and the girls went back to being themselves, I could finally breath a sign of relief. Funny thing is, the observer liked my teaching style, was shocked to learn I had never taught before. He offered just a few, amazingly incredible suggestions that I totally plan to implement.

So what does it all mean? It means, be prepared. Don't assume the status quo will continue. Don't take for granted that things will always be the way you expect it to be.

During and after this experience, all I could do was thank G-d that things went as well as they did. The world always seems a lot better with Him in my corner.