Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hablas Espanol?

Okay, the kids are tired of me practicing Spanish on them. They've taken to making up their own words and just rambling on. Which is pretty exciting because I think I can finally understand them!

Spanish is going very well. Not that I can speak the language, but I enjoy learning it. There's something meaningful about being able to talk to millions of other people. It cuts down the frustration factor dramatically.

It's also important that I keep my study skills strong. So I make flash cards and practice the words on the bus. Oh yeah, just like real school - CSULA.

I hope this feeling keeps up for the next five weeks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Not Going To Be Easy

I tried to enjoy my week off from school, shopping the kids and reading novels. But that's all over now that I've started school once again - an introductory Spanish class at a local community college located in Simcha (Santa) Monica.

You would think that living in a state with 50% of the population speaking Spanish daily and my use of public transportation, would mean I might have picked up something. Well, forget it. I sat in my first class yesterday and thought - there goes my GPA. I've got to take this class pass/no pass.

For some people, languages are easy to pick up. It's been said that the earlier you start, the faster you learn. I have stuck out on both counts, and pray I keep up with my classmates, most of whom appear to be native speakers.

What will help me through is my need to excel at everything I do. No half measures for me. If my professor says I need to study six hours a day to succeed in class, then I will try to do just that. In fact, I've already made flash cards and tried studying on the bus, but the ride, above ground (no subway!) is crowded each way, and full of younger students who are loud and on the phone.

Unlike my beloved subway, which is quiet and clean, the S. Monica bus #7 is very much like its city of origin - freewheeling and slow. That's a beach town for you. At least the weather is amazing - not too hot, not too cold. Breezy, sunny, and plenty of shade. Thank you G-d, for giving us the republic of S. Monica and its wonderful community college, ranked, I'm told, the best in the nation. !Que magnifique!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Winners

Last night I went clothes shopping with my eldest son. We went to the local mall here, known as the Beverly Center. Don't ask - 8 floors of stores. It's enough to make me nauseous. I can't stand so many options. My mother, may she rest in peace, who was a shop-a-holic, is no doubt disappointed at how I turned out.

When we first got off the escalator on the 5th floor, we hear screaming - not one person, mind you, but many. We came to learn that every bout of screaming meant that the Los Angeles Lakers, world champions many times over, had made points in the final play off game.

The crowd was gathered around an outdoor bar located on level 4, with several big screen TVs, and at all the railings overhead up until the 8th floor. It was very merry and I wanted to stay, but shopping awaited.

Don't hate me boycotters, but my son found what he was looking for at H&M, and it wasn't made in Turkey. In fact, the socks were, and I refused to buy them. Score 1 for the good guys.

Upon checkout, there was a particularly loud scream, would could only mean good things. When I mentioned it to the clerk checking us out, he looked appalled and said he hated sports. Okay, I responded, but this isn't about sports, it's about skill and talent. He responded by saying that the players were overpayed.

Well, I countered, it's like motorsports. . .but our clerk hates motorsports too. So I reduced the conversation to one in which I said that it's about a group of people coming together as a team playing together towards a common goal. To win.

I'm not that into sports either, but I appreciate the effort it takes and the desire to give it your all and do your best. Frankly, what's not to like? Especially when your team wins.

If there's anything to hate, it's the lack of team spirit and appreciation of the efforts of others. Well, not hate exactly. But question that point of view.

In the end, there's only one thing to say: LAKERS, YOUR ROCK!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spending the Day

If you forget about the aggravation associated with a lost passport, lost California ID, and generally speaking, a mind lost in a fog, I had a wonderful day with my first born. We spent it trying to find enough ID to get him tested at Santa Monica College (SMC) to allow enrollment for summer school.

Granted, being tested in English and Math skills is stressful, but I had a great time visiting the book store, standing in line at Admissions and getting my school picture ID. Because I'm taking a class this summer at SMC as well. Every day of the week. Yeah. Can't wait.

While my son sweat it out in the testing room for an hour and a half, I walked the campus I spent a year at, marveling at all the sites I never took in. Like the incredible fountain, or the theater arts building, or the financial aid office.

Lazy days of summers - not likely.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free At Last

There's nothing like the feeling of freedom. It makes one kinda giddy and carefree. At least that's how I felt at lunch time today when the judge said we were free to go.

Day 2 of jury duty: the overwhelming majority of jurors showed up at Room 122 on the 13th floor of the criminal justice building in downtown Los Angeles. We waited half an hour until the remainder (8 people) arrived.

After we were all seated, the defense attorney completed her cross examination of the 22 prospective jury members, while the rest of us sat in the audience. Next up, the prosecutor did the same thing. Then 6 jurors were dismissed, replaced and an alternate chosen.

And then the magic words: "Audience, you are all released from service." Oh yeah. I didn't even stop for lunch. I was gone.

When I got on the bus this morning for the court house, I left my fate in the hands of the Creator. With the pressure of school starting on Monday and my boys back from school, I wanted to be anywhere but in a court room. But I was determined to do my duty.

Thank you, Hashem, for allowing me to fulfill those duties at Old Navy. I say it again - oh yeah.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Passing Judgement

I learned last night, much to my shock and dismay, that my presence was requested at the criminal court building in downtown Los Angeles in order to fulfill my civic duty and serve as a juror. My first response is not printable, my second response was "this cannot be happening to me!" My son was due to arrive from Israel in the morning and I would not be there to greet him.

To make matters worse, I was expected to check in at 7:45 AM. On my way there, I bumped into a classmate, who was also on her way to serve. Even thought it seemed like hundreds more would join us, I would not be alone.

We are both slated to start summer school next Monday, so when the presenter at orientation warned us that serving on a jury is a 5 - 7 day commitment, we knew we had to reschedule. When we tried to, the idiots in charge of that assured us that we would have no problem with starting school on time. Later, it was announced that Wednesday is a furlough day and wouldn't count toward the total days served. But it was too late to change our status.

My dear friend and I would either serve our time starting today or be excused for a year. Los Angeles, whatever its faults, adopted the one day/one trial format of jury service, an enlightenment that seems out of place with the pace of the jury selection process. In other words, you could die of old age either waiting to be or once your are selected to be en-paneled - the process is unwieldy and slow.

And chosen we were, for the same trial, with at least 50 other people. Forty-five minutes later, when we actually got into the court room, 22 people were chosen to take their seats in the jury box (needed: 12 jurors and 2 alternates). The judge explained our roles, asked questions (yes, yours truly did answer the big one from the side lines when the 22 couldn't or wouldn't: why can't you talk to the prosecutor or defense lawyer outside the court. Had my juror number noted much to my chagrin) and smiled a lot.

Finally, the defense lawyer started asking the jurors questions. But, thank G-d, before I could observe my July birthday, the judge called it a day and we were free to go, after we agreed to come back tomorrow at 10:30 am.

Creator of the Universe and the only Entity that knows what tomorrow will bring: I trust you. If I get put on that jury, I won't cry. I won't curse. I promise. But You'll owe me big time and I plan to collect!

Welcome Home!

I was thrilled and overjoyed to welcome home my bechor, my eldest child, Yitzy, from his seven month stay in Israel. Alas, I had to do so over the phone because I was called for jury duty.

He expressed to me his love of the land, his yeshiva, how glad he was to be home. Oh yeah, as an after thought, he mentioned the earring.

Like sitting in a jury holding cell wasn't enough to set me on edge! An earring!? No way, I told him. Take it out. In my house, you don't have an earring in your ear. Tzitzits yes. Earring, no.

When I finally got home at 5:30 pm, there was no Yitzy. He was off to see Bubbie and his cousins. During that time, his cousins convinced him to remove the earring for the good of family-kind. The Who T-shirt was fine (better than Rolling Stones, which, if you pardon me, their music I never cared for), along with the air-brushed draw string pants. Next up, a haircut, pack on the lost pounds, and my boy is good to go.

Welcome home, Yitzy. You don't need accouterments to make yourself unique. You're my one-of-a-kind son and I love you dearly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reading That Novel

I promised myself that once school was over, I was going to read a novel. At the first opportunity, I ran to the library. I say first opportunity because the threat of Los Angeles county's impending bankruptcy has reduced city services. No, not the fire department or the police, thank G-d. But yes, the library hours have been cut.

Usually, I queue up to the "New" books shelve to see that strikes my fancy. I like thrillers, mysteries, action books. Then I saw it.

Entitled, The Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story, by Hanan Al-Shaykh, it is, as advertised, her mother's story. Born and raised in 1930s Lebanon, Kamila struggled against being married at 14 to a much older former brother-in-law (husband of her departed sister), and love for another, much younger man named Mohammad.

Frankly, I couldn't put the book down. I'm ashamed to admit that I rushed through my Shabbat Tehilim reading (the entire book) so I could read this book. Finished it about 1:30 am this morning.

It was an engrossing and fascinating peek into the Muslim world and the fate of women in it. It was positive and upbeat, but filled with obvious sorrow that I found myself sighing at each setback. I enjoyed the book immensely. Recommend to all those who would like a good read.

A Little Reminder

When I was working out on campus the other day, I had to remove my earrings because each stroke of the elliptical brought a smack upside my head. It was obvious that I had not accessorized properly.

Then, wouldn't you know it,I left the earrings in the machine's cup holder, and dashed off to the shower, located by my locker, in another building.

But before I could get to the gym shower, I ran into an old friend, literally. We've shared a few classes together, but have since gone in different directions. With every sentence she spoke,she moved her head and her earrings moved as well. They were beautiful and I was mezmorized by them. I reached up to touch my own earrings and realized they weren't there!

I beat a hasty retreat back to the gym and retrieved them. When I told Maria about it, we both realized that the Creator has a way of sending us messages - in this case, a reminder, of what we need.

We, on the other hand, must be sensitive to these messages which can be so subtle we miss them. If I hadn't been paying attention, I quite possibly may have lost a pair of earrings I've had for years, all the more sentimental because they were made by another dear friend.

Definitely a turn on, tune in and drop in moment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's All Over

I can't believe I actually finished my last final today. Can't say I'm excited about it - I know I made a lot of mistakes. But now I can rejoin the human race. First, off to the library to get a NOVEL. Then a Jane Austen movie (love her, can't read her). Then who knows? Maybe make dinner for the kids, walk around barefoot. Gotta lot of options.

I have practically lived with my fellow students these past few days and now I miss them. I miss campus, I miss studying. And it's only been a few hours.

Hopefully, a few down days and I'll be back to being me. Then it's off to summer school. Can't wait!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

When Friends Lose Family

It's been a disturbing weekend. Two school mates lost their fathers within 24 hours of each other - anticipated, but heart rendering.

Living their experiences reminds me of my own. The devastating loss of my parents happened again this weekend, at a time when I'm in the final throes of finals, world opinion is ready to lynch the Jewish state and Sholom Mordechai Ha Levi ben Rivkah (Rubashkin) is about to be sentenced for dubious crimes against the state of Iowa.

Don't ask. It's all good, I told my classmates. It's all good, I have to tell myself as well.

A Treasure Chest of Free Gifts

I went to a gathering of women saying Tehillim (Psalms) today in anticipation of the new Jewish month of Tammuz. Our guest speaker was a Breslover Chosid, and he has several things to say, but one of them really stuck in my mind.

He said that the world waited for the Torah to be given on Mt. Sinai in order for there to be clarity of purpose. After Matan Torah, or giving of the Torah as we call it, the world was defined, and everyone knew their place and what was expected of them. But what did the world do before Matan Torah?

Now here's the good part. It appears that G-d has a treasure chest of free gifts that He bestows on petitioners. All you have to do is ask G-d for what you need, in the form of prayer, and G-d's mercy knows no bounds. The supply of free gifts is never-ending, pointing to the infinity of the Creator.

Here's a story he told as illustration. Many years ago in Russia, a Breslover Chosid's wife gave birth to a child that was not well, and it didn't look good. The wife asked her husband to go to the Rebbe, Rabbi Nachmun, and ask for a blessing. When the chosid did ask his Rebbe for the blessing, Reb Nachmun said he could not - it had been decreed in Heaven that this child would not live. Broken-hearted, the chosid went home and told his wife.

The wife did the only thing she knew how to do: she pulled up a chair to the baby's cradle and spent the night praying and crying, beseeching the Creator to spare her baby's life. The next morning, when the chosid saw his Rebbe, the Rebbe announced joyously that the decree had been lifted, and that due to the merit of the wife's davening, the baby would have long life. That baby grew up and lived to be 100 years old.

The morale of the story: never lose hope. The Holy One is filled with mercy towards those worthy of it, and listens fully to our pleas.

Now, Hashem, about my finals. . .

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We Con The World

It is my mission and vision not to politicize this blog, but when a funny video comes along, well, I'm not gonna pass it up because it makes a statement. Especially when I agree with it.

May G-d, in His Wisdom, grant us the calm we need to make this world a better place to live in.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The spring school quarter is almost over and I'm heading into finals. But first, I took time out to make presentations in two classes - presentations that required a lot of research, writing and performing.

Yes, performing. Standing up before classmates, giving over information, and looking like I know what I'm doing. That's performing.

None of this would have been possible without teamwork. My team included Maria (of course!), Moav, Priscilla and Sabina. The girls. Everyone worked hard and together.

In a few days, it will all be over. Moav will go to Israel for the summer, Priscilla will head north, Sabina will get back to work and Maria will finish up coursework at summer school.

Me, I'm off to community college to learn Spanish. Lazy days of summer, indeed.