Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taking The Canyon

In LA, when you tell someone you're taking the canyon, it's means you're driving over Laurel, Topanga, or Coldwater Canyons, which connect the city to the San Fernando Valley. But today I took the canyon and I didn't need my car once I got there. That's because I joined thousands of other people and even more dogs on a Sunday trek of Runyon Canyon.

It's the city's gift to its citizens, with miles of dirt trails, hills, and switchbacks, complete with a 180-degree panoramic view of the metropolis spread out below. The weather was amazing - not to hot, not too sunny. Plenty of guys without shirts and girls in spandex. Plenty of friendly people too.

I'm ashamed to admit I've lived here this long without hiking up Runyon, despite the fact that all my friends have. There's even a group of women who start out at 5 am to watch the sunrise and daven to Hashem up there. Now I know why.

Today, I feel like one of those people who tasted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the first time at age 35. No wonder - I am that person. I suppose I'm just too focused on my interests to try something before I'm ready.

Runyon Canyon is now an interest and I'm definitely ready. If you live in Los Angeles, and you're like me, don't wait to taste a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And don't wait to take the canyon.
Photo by Mendel Stark.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mourning A Loss

It seemed as thought this past week would never end. But it did, with a bit of bad news. My dear friend lost her mother. Her loss has brought back my loss, as the memories of those times lie very close to my consciousness, and enter with the hint of a smell, the hue of the sky, or a certain month of the year.

My friend asked me, as her mother lay dying, how long would she be this upset. I told her the truth - forever. I also told her that different people mourn differently, and experience loss differently as well. Know this - when you lose a parent, no matter how bad the relationship was, you will remember only the good. Just like childbirth, G-d has a way of making us concentrate on the positive in our parent-child relationships, since they are the ones most fraught with angst.

Time helps, in terms of adapting to life without them. But it doesn't heal the gaping hole you feel during the holidays, birthdays and other joyous events. And there's nothing like the pain of visiting them at a cemetery and reading their names on a headstone. I still haven't been able to master my emotions then, and it's been a few years.

Our parents gave us life. We give them honor and respect. If not in life, then in death. Because it's never too late to do the right thing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting The Message

I was sitting with my friends, going over our class project when it hit me. Suddenly, I couldn't focus. I knew it. A migraine.

I sort of trained myself to function through them. I can't read, but I can write, hear, and smile. Sometimes my thoughts don't come out of my mouth clearly, but what else is new.

Actually, it is quite upsetting to get a migraine. I wipes me out for the rest of the day - I function at half speed. Which I think is the point.

After this last migraine, I thought about all the things I need to accomplish and the list is quite long. Perhaps this migraine is G-d's way of telling me to slow down. All my attempts at controlling events are useless - in the blink of an eye, I go from writing research papers to the inability to form a sentence. If that isn't the One Above, than who?

By necessity, I walked a little slower today, I smiled a little more, I sat a little quieter in my seat. I let everyone else take center stage. I played the audience. I learned a lot. I learned that I can't take my life for granted, my family and friends for granted, my abilities for granted. Thank you G-d, for giving me the message. Considered it received.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Carpool Redemption Now!

When I got the news today that all my children are off school for the next week, I was so thrilled. The thought of three screaming, whining, fighting kids in my house for five days straight sounded so wonderful that I glowed. Why? Because it means I don't do carpool.

Car pool: (verb) (1) the act of dropping everything you're doing and getting behind the wheel of your car to line up behind other cars also waiting to take children home. (2) the bane of my existence.

Frankly, I'd like to get my hands on some of that taxpayer supported (that's me) public school transportation monies to hire buses to haul our kids so I can reclaim my life. I'm not being selfish - everyone I know who does what I do feels that way. Just tonight, when I dropped the last kids off at their house, their mother, a sweet, good-natured soul, came running to the gate and yelled, "Hey Nana - no carpool!" We pumped our fists in triumph, as I yahoo-ed the rest of the way home.

I finally get why so many cars at carpool have the Moshiach Now!* bumper stickers. I'm getting one for my car too. Maybe, just maybe, one less carpool and we'll all be free.

*Moshiach Now! means literally Messiah Now, or world peace.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Holding On To You

Right now, I should be (1) writing my presentation, which is due in a few hours and I've barely started; (2) reviewing my lab report, due even sooner and written, I promise, in my sleep. Truth is, I can't. My heart is breaking and the tears are flowing.

You see, my dear friend Elisabeth is standing watch at the bedside of her dear mother, struck down by a massive stroke on Sunday, just hours after gastric bypass surgery (see: Reading the Fine Print). But what is so painful to me is knowing that I can't help the person I love - in this case Elisabeth - get through one of the most traumatic experiences of her young life. I know. I've been there.

So with all my heart and all my tears, I'm sending you my love and my prayers, Elisheva bat Devorah. Thank you G-d, for giving me the great honor of having spoken, and hopefully given comfort, to your wonderful mother, Devorah bat Marsha, on Friday. I will cherish those few moments we had, just as I cherish our precious friendship. Please, remember, while there is life there is hope. Miracles come in the blink of an eye. Hold on to mother and don't let go, just like I'm holding on to you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Gray Matter Matters

A few weeks ago, I was horrified to learn that I couldn't go online from my laptop. All my school mates were surfing, but I was stuck - my computer broken. I rushed home (rushing means waiting for the bus to come as fast as you can) and ran in the house to grab the car keys. No dinner for me, no library with the kids, no even speaking to the kids. I was off to the store where I purchased the computer to get it serviced.

I waited in line for 45 minutes, thinking (read: fuming) about what I would tell the serviceman only to reach him breathless. What's wrong with my computer, I gasped. He gave me this pathetic look, and told me. The Internet button was turned off. Now, there are probably other people in the world (just broadening the base) who have done the same thing, but not many. At first, I felt relief. Shortly thereafter, I felt stupid. I asked a few more questions, just to make the 45 minute wait worth my while, bought an umbrella, and quietly left the store.

It reminds me of the time I came home from the hospital with baby #5 to find the washing machine wasn't working. I called the repair man, impressed upon him the urgency of his coming to my house right away and when he got here, well, another stupid moment. The washing machine was unplugged. Come to think of it, I got the same pathetic look then too.

So is it any wonder that I felt the need for a C.T. Scan? Besides the optical migraines I get nearly every week, I just had to know if there's grey matter, besides my hair, in my head. So I asked the technician, Esther, after today's procedure, if indeed, she saw a brain in there. Laughingly, she assured me she had. I just hope she didn't say that to make me feel better.

That Unique Relationship

My friend Maria was mentioning to me the other day that her husband spoils their daughter - she gets everything she wants by merely asking. I laughed it off and attributed it that unique relationship between fathers and daughters. But I didn't realize the implications of my own words until this past Friday night.

As I have one son who lives at home in New York right now, a seat had opened up at the Shabbat table right between me and my husband. I asked my 10 year old son if he wanted it - after all he was sitting on the other side of the table, furthest away from his parents. He jumped at the offer. My daughter became upset, and as she sits on the end of the table opposite my husband, I managed to change seats with another son so that she sat by me.

Come dinner time, my daughter was in tears. She wanted to sit between her father and me, and said she was promised that seat. She ran off crying to her room. In truth, that's where I would have left her - I'm not a big spoiler. But guess who is? Her father went off to smooth things out, and actually got my son to move his seat. I was furious, but said nothing. Dinner continued in peace, only I was pissed.

Saturday morning, when my daughter came to give me a Shabbat kiss, I told her that it wasn't right to make her brother move, and that I did not promise her the seat. She was unmoved, refused to accept my version of things and that's where we left it.

I got to thinking about my conversation with Maria. Yes, there is definitely a relationship between fathers and daughters that goes much deeper, even, then that between husbands and wives. I supposed it is the father's place to spoil his daughter, however unprepared that makes her for life's challenges. And it's my place to love them both.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reading The Fine Print

I friend of mine, who lives back east, is having a hard time dealing with the after effects of gastric bypass surgery. The nausea and lack of appetite are getting her down. Those friends who told her gastric bypass was wonderful forgot to tell her that it takes a while for the wonderful to happen.

It's like anything else in life - we need to read the fine print. That fine print sometimes comes in the form of asking the right questions, or doing thorough research. But sometimes the unexpected happens.

Take my dear brother as an example. Diagnosed with Non Hopkins Lymphoma, his choices were a bone marrow transplant or treatment that would put the disease in remission, but not cure it. The remission could reverse itself and if that happened, no further treatment would be possible.

Well, the choice of a bone marrow transplant was a no-brainer. My sister and I tested to be possible donors (we weren't), and I prayed at my parents' grave site, begging them to intercede. The bone-marrow match came through. Going on 3 years later, the results are a nightmare. His body rejected the donor bone marrow, and now he lives in constant pain. If he had known then what he knows now, he says he would have opted for remission.

Sometimes life doesn't play out as we wish even when we read the fine print. We have to rely on G-d to know what's right. The hard part is accepting His decision as final. As humans, we're not wired that way. Which is a good thing. Because I believe sometimes G-d throws bad things our way because He wants to be in our life. He wants us to cry out to Him. For my part, I'm more than happy to oblige.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When Flying Was Fun

I'm not that old (relatively speaking), but I can still remember when flying was fun. Didn't have to take your shoes off, didn't have to wait in long lines. When airlines gave you something to eat and drink without mugging you first; the headphones were free, luggage didn't incur a separate fee, and there was actually room for your legs in coach.

In case you haven't noticed, those days are gone. Tonight, our family piled into the Dodge Ram 250 to take son Shlomo to the airport. He, along with his yeshiva, are going to New York to commemorate Yud Shvat, the date one Rebbe passed and another ascended to his place. This, on the very day a plane was diverted because a 17 year old boy put on Tefillin* and scared his fellow passengers half to death.

In my fondest memories (read: the old days), everyone accompanied the flyer to the gate. Now, you need special permission from the airline and then, only one member of the family can go. So we sent Shlomo off with this class without us, much to his relief. He was embarrassed enough with us waving at him from the nearby walkway as he stood in line for a security check.

I'm not naive enough to think we turn back time to the simpler, anything goes days of flying. But is it too much to ask for a mother AND father to accompany their minor child to the departing gate? What have we become, as a society, when we have to ask permission from strangers to be with the ones we love? The bad guys win when we lose our moral bearings. Family should be with family. Stand in line for security? Okay. Take off our shoes? Whatever. Send our children away without one final hug at the gate? No way.

Tefillin: a set of small cubic leather boxes painted black, containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, with leather straps dyed black on one side, and worn by observant Jewish men during weekday morning prayers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's As Simple As This

Here I am, teaching nutrition to a wonderful group of children, ages 4 to 12 years old. I volunteer every Wednesday night to be with my cuties. Tonight, we would steer clear of baking (the peanut butter and jelly muffins last week were almost a complete disaster) and concentrate instead on raw veggies and dips.

I walked into the room, where a Disney movie was in play, shut it off, and asked who would help me unload my goodies. I was ignored. Okay, who's going to be the first to wash hands. I continued to be ignored.

Not easily discouraged, I unloaded everything and with the assistance of the staff, set each child off one at a time to wash hands. When they returned, I went from one child to the next asking for help in mixing the dips together. Nope, they wouldn't budge. Finally, the little ones couldn't contain their curiosity and came to stick their fingers in all the dip bowls. Disgusting, but you gotta take participation where you can get it.

Then it happened. Table swarm. Next thing I knew the cucumbers and carrots were being polished off, while one brave little boy dipped and re dipped his one celery stick in the communal peanut butter bowl. I'm pretty sure the stains will come out of his shirt.

The children were completely engaged. I held up the food pyramid chart and the kids pointed out all the food groups we had eaten from. Then we decided on next week's menu, taken from the two food groups we missed this time around.

The Holy One presented me with an hour of pure joy tonight and I have to acknowledge it. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It Never Rains In California. . .

It never ceases to amaze me how much the rain freaks people out in Los Angeles. I'll admit it. I'm freaked out. I dislike the gloom, the chill, and getting wet fully clothed. It's connected, I'm sure, to the promise of eternal sunshine we So Cal people believe we are entitled to. It's probably also connected to the fact that most of us don't have the right clothes for it either.

Add to all that the resultant slippery, oil-slicked roads, which turns driving, often an hours-long process anyway, into something that requires military planning. There's also the emotional turmoil of having to deal with temperatures dropping to 60 degrees during the day, amid dark clouds. I've had more than one friend tell me they had a hard time getting out of bed today because it was so dark outside.

Okay, we're wimps. As my friends and I, volunteers at a local food bank, stared out the glass door at the rain pouring down in buckets, all we could say was: Why us? Why now? Do we actually have to go out in this? How will we survive?

Perhaps we Los Angelinos need to take some lessons from our cousins, the transplanted Easterners, who often don't use umbrellas or run for shelter during a drizzle.

On second thought, why bother. This too, will pass.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Calm Settles

I went out tonight around 6:45 pm and came back an hour later. The house was quiet. Uh-oh, I thought. I walked into the wrong house. How embarrassing.

But I was in the right house. It's just of all my children, the one who is most aggressive, loud, abrasive and argumentative was no where in sight.

I thought maybe he had been abducted by space aliens. It's been that kind of day. So I asked the children closest to me where their brother was. "Don't know," they replied. Yup, space aliens had him.

About 30 minutes later, when I was rounding up laundry to wash, I found him. He was in bed. Reading. He's on the second book of the Eragon series, after finishing the Percy Jackson series just two weeks ago. What every parent prays for has finally happened - my child has found enjoyment in reading books. A calm has settled over the house.

I know it's temporary. Tomorrow morning, he'll wake up ready to take on the world, starting with his younger siblings. But right now, the Holy One has blessed him with the joy of bringing a story to life in his mind. And right now, He's blessed the rest of us with peace.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On Being An Addict

Just the smell of it drives my to drink, literally. I crave it now, and have to use willpower to stop myself from indulging. Once a day, I tell myself, that's all. But sometimes I cheat.

I'm a coffee addict. I started using October 23, 2009, when I tried coffee for the first time ever, while at an Ethiopian Restaurant for a class project. There, they spiked the coffee with agave nectar. Me, I'm not so fancy. Honey works just fine. But only honey. No sugar, no milk, no non-dairy creamer. I wish I could say I'm a purist, but in truth, coffee, without sweetener, tastes disgusting.

My Father, may he rest in peace, drank coffee all day long, straight. Man, he was one tough guy. Born in the Bronx, raised up during the Depression. His life experiences were far more bitter than coffee. Bet the black stuff tasted sweet to him. Mom, may she rest in peace, also drank coffee, but with sugar and cream. My brother Hal, he drinks the stuff too, straight, just like Dad.

Only my baby sister is clean. Doesn't touch the stuff. I worry about her. Hope she stays that way. I want her to be able to go through life driving right past a Starbucks without looking for a place to park. And me, well, maybe one day I'll kick this habit. Maybe one day, I'll be free.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Giving Over What You Know

Every Shabbat, the women in my shul take turns teaching the Torah portion of the week to each other. I volunteered to teach this week, as a way of honoring my parents' yarhzeit. They died a year apart in the same week, 7 and 6 years ago, respectively.

The parsha or chapter was Vaera, meaning I appeared, and begins with G-d describing how He appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, in answer to Moshe's question, or rebuke of His behavior, from the previous week. G-d essentially reminds Moshe that he stands on a spiritual level higher than the Avos* and that with all the their trials and tribulations (Avraham nearly sacrificing his son, Yitzchak being the son nearly sacrificed, and Yaakov with a jerk of a twin brother, just to name a few), they never questioned G-d. That's because the Avos embodied the essence of emotions (Avraham = love, Yitzchak = fear of evil, Yaakov = mercy) which led to an unquestioning acceptance of all heavenly decrees. Considering what the Avos accomplished, it's safe to say that emotional attributes lead to action.

Moshe, on the other hand, embodied the essence of knowledge, a tendency towards detachment and the need to question everything - decidedly an attribute of inaction. G-d let Moshe know that he needed to get some of the Avos' emotional strength to augment his attribute of knowledge, and get on with the business of redemption.

And Moshe did just that. Since we all know the end of the story, it's technically not a spoiler to say that the Jews left Egypt as a free nation. But only because Moshe was able to combine the detachment of knowledge (a higher attribute) with the action of emotions (a lower attribute).

What does that mean for us? It means the Torah scholar cannot reject the mundane world, and the water carrier must seek to beautify mitzvot, or good deeds. Like Moshe, we must bring the high and the low together to enable redemption. So let's get to work and bring Moshiach NOW!!!

*Avos: the Fathers, or patriarchs of Judaism - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Clarity Comes. . .

I had been meaning to speak to a friend of mine all day, but it's amazing how a classroom can keep you apart. There were 8 rows between us, but it might as well have been the Pacific Ocean. So right before our third and final class of the day (in the same room!), I looked up to see her smiling face and blurted out, "I need to ask you a question." Her smile vanished.

I didn't realize how threatening I sounded. "Am I in trouble?" she asked. I laughed, she laughed. "No," I told her. "I just need you to clarify something for me."

I'll admit, sometimes I can actually figure things out myself. Either the answer will come to me right away or I'll have to slug it out in my mind. Then there are times when I can't get a handle on something, and that's what friends are for. They give you advice, which helps you make decisions, or they just straight up give you the answer you're looking for. Today, V, as I'll refer to her, did both. I knew she would, that's why I was so anxious to speak to her. I knew that she knew. And now I know. Thank you V, for making clarity possible. And thank you, Hashem for giving me V.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Other People's Children

I volunteer each week at a shelter teaching children about nutrition. Every week I wait until the last minute to decide what to teach and every week I show up 15 minutes late. That leaves 45 minutes of class time, which means hurrying to get everything done. Every week I say I'm going to change my habits and so far nothing has come of it.

Which is strange, considering I've adapted to every other scenario I'm thrown into, from 8 am classes to volunteering in food kitchens. Could it be about other people children? I really love these kids. They're great and appreciative and get so excited when I finally do show up.

Tonight, my daughter asked me to read her a bedtime story. I usually turn her down because I want her to get into the habit of reading to herself. But this time, I jumped at the chance to lay down with her and read to her. Because tonight, for the first time, I felt guilty slighting all my children, the ones under my own roof and the ones under a roof not their own. I pray the Holy One gives me the strength to grow and change, giving all my children the love and care they deserve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Dream Come True

The headline on today made me feel like I died and went to heaven: Fat Butts May Be Healthy. The very thing that has plagued me my whole life now may be the best thing that ever happened to me. Wow, what a gift!

Based on studies coming out of the University of Oxford, England, lower body fat (no mention of ankles here) is NOT linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes. No so with stomach fat, which is decidedly not healthy.

Don't get me wrong - fat is not desirable. But not all fat is created equal, and that is the point of the article. So if there's anything you can do about it (short of a genetic redo), pack that fat on your hips and thighs. Care for an extra whole wheat oatmeal raisin cookie, anyone?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Parking Mojo

I decided that I had lived long enough without the new Benny Friedman CD and set off early this evening to the local Jewish bookstore on Fairfax Avenue to buy one. Here in Los Angeles, Fairfax, as the street is known, has a long history of Jewish affiliation. But like most places Jewish, non-Jewish and "alternative-lifestyle" people tend to feel right at home on the block. So right next door to the kosher butcher is a nightclub, and across the street from the Jewish food market is a tattoo parlor and a hip-hop clothing store.

Needless to say, the parking was non-existent when I got there. Oh no, I thought, don't do this to me. Don't make me drive around the block. Then my parking mojo kicked in. I first learned about parking mojo from Lisa, who had it big time. Didn't matter if there was a Hollywood premier next door, Lisa found parking right in front of where she needed to be.

Well, call me Lisa. Just as I drove up to the store, a car pulled out. Parking mojo big time. The only problem is, Los Angeles used to be a city that let you off the meter hook after 6 pm as well as Shabbos and Sunday. No more. And they kept the change a big secret. Didn't have a friend who wasn't ticketed. So I parted with 15 cents (all I could rummage out in the dark), ran into the store, parted with even more money, and ran out satisfied: CD in hand, parking in front, pizza for dinner. So far, G-d's plan seems to be working.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Sitcom Moment

My friend Debbie called me tonight to talk about tomorrow's plans. I told I was currently driving with my three sons. We laughed. She asked me if I ever watched the show. Of course, I said. But I could never relate to it. The show could never really hold my interest like Dennis the Menace or Leave It To Beaver.

But looking around the car, I could definitely relate to my three sons. Shlomo, who at 14 is the eldest at home, needs gloves, and so Mendel, 12, Moshe, 10 and I were all off to the sporting goods store to find a pair. That didn't work out, so next we went to the department store. If someone asked me to describe it, I'd say, "nothing special really, we just went shopping." But it was something special. We were spending time together, talking together, standing together, walking together. No rush, no pressure. Gosh it was wonderful. Thank you, Holy One, for giving me these moments and allowing me to recognize them for what they are. Meaningful, bonding adventures. May the Creator, in His wisdom, keep 'em coming!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The People You Meet

For the past three months, I've been volunteering at a place called Project Angel Food, a local charity that provides food (door to door delivery) for people with both chronic and acute illnesses - free of charge. My duties have ranged from preparing, from scratch, roasted chicken for a hundred, complete with spices, working a food line (filling trays or making sandwiches), to doubling plastic bags for food packing.

Over the course of this time, I have met the most interesting people, including actors, agents, retired folks, and one group from a broadcasting company. Their stories are fascinating, and I've bonded with nearly everyone I've worked with on my two-hour shifts. It never ceases to amaze me how much we all have in common. Today, Matt and I filled up small plastic containers with corn flakes (for future breakfast deliveries) and spoke about traveling to Europe, then and now. He went last year, I went 35 years ago. Or going to Cabo San Lucas. Matt loves it there, but has always flown down. I love it there, but have only driven the Baja Pennisula to get there.

In the normal course of our lives, chances are Matt and I would never have met. But here, helping other people, our lives intersected. Doesn't that sound about right!

To learn more about Project Angel Food, go to their website:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Same Question, Different Answers

I got up well before dawn this morning, knowing I would have to be at the bus stop by 6:30 am to make a 8:00 am class. On the bus, I said Tehillim, listened to music (current favorite: The Best of Moshav Band) and debated to myself whether I was doing the right thing adding such an early class that would tip my course load to 5 upper division classes. Maria, my partner in so many class projects, really wanted to add this class. And frankly, I didn't want to take this class without her. But during registration some weeks back, I purposely didn't add this class as I was already bordering on overwhelm.

Outside the classroom, waiting for the professor to show, Maria asked what we should do. I told her I planned on letting G-d decide. So when we got into class and the professor noticed it was filled to capacity, she announced she would not add any more students unless they were graduating seniors. That's Maria. She had her answer, and I had mine. G-d had spoken, more or less. I grabbed my things, left class and didn't look back.

I figure G-d speaks to us all the time. We just have to listen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

School Daze

My first day back at school was filled with emotions common to students everywhere: dread and terror. I kept asking myself all day long how will I survive this quarter? Not just figuratively, but technically, how will I survive? I'm taking five classes, all with homework, requisite volunteer hours and assignments requiring extreme organizational skills. Not to mention applying for internships in nutrition that pit my skills and abilities against hundreds of other, probably more qualified candidates? Any wonder why the thought of spending 10 weeks in the final stages of childbirth sounds so much more comforting than this?

But that's not all. So many of my classmates are struggling with how to graduate without completing the required coursework. The answer: they can't. Because the state of California is experiencing a budget crisis (read: bankruptcy) and the university I attend is state funded. Or was. Add to my own dread and terror the frustration of so many dear friends who find their fate is literally beyond their control. After working so hard for so long, they may not achieve their goal of graduating this Spring.

It took another classmate, in the midst of this storm, to look me in the eyes and say: "do the best you can and let G-d." Thank you, dear A, for saying what needed to be said. All I can add is, Amen.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Being Forced to Think

I have some decisions to make and I went seeking advice. The person I chose to give that advice didn't really give any, or so I thought at the time. I even had the chutzpah to tell this person, "gee, I wish I could talk to someone who could say, hey, do this, don't do that." It was just a little unnerving that this person looked at me, and rattled off a list of possible candidates, when the one person I really wanted to hear from was sitting right in front of me.

Well, thank G-d this person is smarter than me. Because instead of fulfilling a role I had designed, she filled the role designed for her. That role is providing the tools needed to help people like me think for ourselves.

No small feat, when the decisions could affect the course of a professional life. But if I don't start making those decisions now, I've never figure things out.
Thank you G-d, for providing the right person at the right time. And thank you again, for giving me enough working brain matter to realize it.

I Was So Moved

Please take a few moments out to view the short video entitled, "Shema Yisroel." I found it on one of my favorite sites,, which you can access from here. I cried like a baby, it was so moving.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

When Women Meet. . .

There was a little over a minyan* of us; women who came together to say the entire book of Tehillin (Psalms) on a seasonably warm Sunday morning in Los Angeles. Yes, the weather was amazing, but even more amazing is that in half an hour, all 150 chapters of Tehillim were said, a D'var Torah shared, and each of us gave tzeddakah.

When women meet to serve the Holy One, the power is tangible - you can feel it and even taste it. It was the taste of geulah, of freedom, like the tart but sweet tangerine I enjoyed afterwards. And it felt great. Because it made the mundane tasks of shopping, carpool and cleaning that came later in the day seem so special. When women meet, the world can change. Amen.

*Minyan is equal to the number 10 and often refers to men, as 10 men are required to bring down the Holy Presence for prayer. I use the word here soley as a counting device, as no such requirement is made for women. As Co-Creators with the Holy One, Jewish women are inbued with the Divine Presence individually.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Shalom In Shabbat

No matter what time I light candles on a Friday night, I know I'm good for a nap within 30 minutes. It seems the weight of the week knocks me out about then, and a little rest is good before my husband comes home and announces the start of the meal.

I wasn't always like this. Until my dearest friend and upstairs neighbor Sara was forced to move, Friday nights meant going over the Torah portion of the week. We took turns going to each other's house with one or the other presenting Torah thoughts in a "nutshell." Since April, discussing the Torah portion has turned into a Friday afternoon ritual with Sara over the phone. Not that I'm complaining. Now that we're miles apart, this compromise keeps us connected.

Then there's the davening, or prayers Saturday morning in Shul. It's sheer happiness for me every Saturday morning to see the Rebbetzin and all the women I'm rarely in contact with during the week. Before kiddish, the women gather to hear one of us give a shuir, a D'var Torah. Every woman who wants to has an opportunity to speak. Scholarship is not a requirement.

I spend the rest of the day saying the Book of Tehillim in the merit of my dear brother, Hershel Yaakov ben Masha, who is not well. This is my peace. This is my Shalom. Thank you Creator, for giving me this gift of Shabbat, of family, friends, and prayer.