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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

He's Got My Attention

It's an on-going saga for me: G-d speaks through deeds and I try to listen. Today, the one-sided conversation was pedal to the medal.

Right after putting my bike in its locker on campus, I went to watch the news broadcast by the library. Like nearly everyone else paying attention, I was estatic over the Chilean miners' rescue, and during rescue downtime, I went upstairs to my office. That's when I noticed it.

My fanny pack was ripped. Blessed be He that kept all my junk inside it, because it was torn open on the side.

So I improvised and wore my pack like a sling, ripped side up. Oh well, I told myself, what do you expect from a garage sale.

Right after statistics class, when I was looking right in the eye of some serious "between class" downtime, my backpack's left harness buckle broke. That meant I had to wear it like a toga - thank G-d for the waist belt.

Last but not least, my watch band snapped in my final class for the day.

So what's the message? With every mishap, there was a saving grace: the fanny pack became a sling, the backpack a toga. The watch went in my pocket. Things worked out and I blessed G-d for it.

Perhaps the Creator wanted me to pick my head out of my books and appreciate what I have. Okay, G-d, you've got my attention.

How Cool Is That?

I just sat down in the communal eating room before the library opens up at CSULA. It's 7:30 am and the 14th trapped miner was just rescued from the mine in Chile. Victor Zamora hugged and kissed his wife, laid down on a stretcher, hugged the President of Chile, and was whisked to the hospital.

How cool is that? I cried. With all the bad news in the world, with all the bold, unadulterated hatred we witness daily on the TV news, it is truly heart-warming to watch those miners literally come back to life. Thank you G-d for this gift of life, this magic to make us believe that anything is possible.

And thank you to the President and people of Chile - for caring enough about these men to make the rest of us care too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back To School Night

Tonight was back to school night. Not for my kids, but for me. As a teacher, it was my turn to be snubbed by parents, and snubbed I was.

Not that I took any of it personally. But when my 10 minutes of fame came around to present my class room agenda, there were only 4 parents to hear it. And I've got 21 students, which means a lot of parents were missing.

But I understand. I'm one of those parents. Not proud of it, just honest.

Happy Dreams

As I was walking down the street today on my way to the bus stop, my neighbor pulls over in her van, rolls down the window and say, "I had a dream about you!"

In truth, my first thoughts were on making the bus, and I was not exactly in the mood to hear about it. "Oh yeah?" I said, resigned that I was going to hear about it. "Yes," she says, "and you were happy."

I smiled, thanked her, and thought to myself, oh my gosh, what a gift. That was the best news I had heard all day.

I was heading towards my high school teaching job, which was giving me more than my share of grief. It was good to know that at least somewhere, in someone's mind, I am happy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shopping With Leeba

My dear friend Leeba called me this past Friday morning to mention that she had a half-price coupon for her favorite thrift shop to be used this Sunday. Sweeter words were never heard. Count me in!

So this morning, bright and early, my daughter and I drove over to the San Fernando Valley, where she stayed and played with Leeba's daughter and Leeba and I went second-hand shopping.

In a dingy, dark storefront in Burbank, Leeba and I spent two hours going up one aisle and down the next, trying to remember our sons' pant sizes and checking for stains. An artist and fashion designer, Leeba held one blouse after another against me to size it right, declared the colors worked, and even made me try a few things on. And it was all worth it.

Items priced at $2.50 and $3.99 were now half off, and that went for items marked at $1.99 as well. What should have cost nearly $100 cost a mere $47, and when it was all over, with great effort, we carried our gently used treasures out to the car.

Thank G-d for thrift shops, thank G-d for a washer-dryer in the house, and thank G-d for Leeba.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Join(ing) The Club

Yesterday was "Club Day" at CSULA. All recognized clubs had the option of having a table with their name on it, and sitting under an awning on the ASI quad. Of course, the newly established CSULA Jewish Club was there.

Me, along with my partner Victoria, who actually brought this all together, and Rabbi Moshe Levin took the challenge of finding Jews at CSULA. It wasn't easy and we didn't find many. But this adventure answered the question: Are there Jews at CSULA? The answer is yes.

We had an equal amount of non-Jews sign up, for a total of 6 people, along with our faculty advisor, the amazing Dr. Dany Frankl. How we met him is an interesting story.

After I strong-armed Gabby, one of four Jews I know on campus, into becoming a board member of the club (since 5 members were required, I asked Maria to be a board member - she was so excited!), I asked everyone I knew for a faculty advisor. Conventional wisdom (aka, no one else would do it), said the advisor should be Jewish. It was Lucy, an Armenian friend, who wondered if Dr. Frankl from Kinesiology was a Jew.

Yes, he's a Jew, former faculty member at the Wingate Sports Institute in Israel, current faculty member of Kinesiology, and he offered to sign on immediately. Talk about supportive, he's a gift.

The next step is to institute a "lunch and learn" program with Rabbi Levin, and see what direction the club goes from there. I am truly humbled by the open, revealed Hand of G-d in all of this. May we go from strength to strength.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Talking To Tam

Today was my first all-day at school. Meaning, class began at 8 am and ended at 9 pm. Ouch. If it weren't for the Starbucks at around 5 pm, I wouldn't be writing this. I'd be lying somewhere fast asleep.

My final class was a research course on nutrition topics. Sounds fascinating, doesn't it? Well, Dr. Tam is teaching it. For those of you who know him, well, fascinating isn't exactly the word that comes to mind.

But I love Dr. Tam regardless of how crazy he gets when he goes off on his tangents. A native of Hong Kong under British rule, Dr. Tam got his PhD at UCLA in biochemistry in the early 1980s. Having taken a biochem class, he gets oodles of respect for that.

But as weird as he may be, Dr. Tam is the kind of person you want in your corner. Because he cares. So when I told him how stumped I am about a topic for a thesis, he looked right at me and said, "you're political, do something on the politics of food."

It wasn't exactly an "Ah Hah" moment, but it got me to thinking. Which is the first step. I probably won't research that, but that's alright. The role of any good teacher is to get you to think. I never thought I'd ever say this, but Dr. Tam, you're great!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Passing A Test

Today I gave my 12th grade physiology students their first end-of-chapter test. I made it clear that any talking at all, even to say, "oh, I dropped my pencil" would be considered cheating, earning the recipient of an F a trip to the Principal's office.

They still talked. I just didn't have the heart to give an F to these girls, especially since I felt some would earn one on their own anyway. What's it gonna take to get these girls to shut up?

However, tonight, when I graded the tests, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 11 of the 20 girls got an A, 5 got a B, 3 got a C and 1 got a D. I'm worried about the D, but figure we have another 8 months to get this gal up to speed.

Perhaps the test was easy, and I should hold off reviewing the material beforehand. But I want these girls to do well. I want them to be encouraged that they can do well. And frankly, I'm too lazy to give homework that I would need to grade in addition to what I am doing already.

I am currently taking 4 classes at CSULA, and it takes me hours to prepare the lectures and the tests for this high school class. I don't have the strength to do more.

As my mother-in-law says, "G-d should help you." She means me. And I mean me too.

Come To Momma

I said to myself, no girl, not another "it's raining in SoCal" post. But I must. Because yesterday, despite the odds, it was actually raining in SoCal. All day long.

I admit it. I panicked. I have no idea where the umbrellas are that survived being used as weapons by my sons. Therefore, I drove slowly to Bed, Bath & Beyond, with 20% off coupons, and bought two umbrellas. I saved $6!

And now, it's not raining. But at least that challenge is off my mind. I now have umbrellas. For the time being, that is.

Home At Last

Thanks to the Holy One, my husband came through his surgery just fine. In fact, while still groggy, he asked to be checked out of the hospital.

What is that all about? If it were me, I'd be asking the doctor for an extension to stay. I love laying in bed, watching TV, ringing for room service. Love having my temperature and blood pressure taken, all the while lounging in a state-of-the-art facility that is brand new. Hello - am I crazy?

So when I came to pick my husband up last night around 7 pm, he was dressed, had his plastic bag filled with stuff, and was ready to go. Me, I wanted to sit for a while, but no way. He wanted out.

This morning, when I could barely open my eyes (I have a cold), my husband was up and about, making lunches, surfing the net, and just relaxing at home. I mean, did he have surgery or what?

It's a gift, my friends, to be able to survive the rigors of the modern hospital (germ central) and get back to your daily routine so quickly. I just visited the hospital and I'm thrown off mine.

Hope this isn't a test from you know Who!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Pain In His . . .

My husband is not much of a complainer, about himself that is. He's really a role model in the "suck it up" category. So when he complained of abdominal pains, my ears perked up.

He's been having back pains and said something about a pinched nerve in his right shoulder, but once again, never really complaining.

So last night, Sunday Bubbie pizza night, when my husband asked me to take him home, I thought it was kinda strange. But when he called an hour later and asked me to come home, well, now I got worried.

When I pulled up to the front door to let the kids out, there was my husband, Mr. Fear of Flying and Hospitals, ready to get into the car for a trip to Kaiser urgent care. It was there we got the confirmation: early appendicitis.

In terms of urgent needs, early appendicitis ranks real low on the surgical scale of immediate operations. Heads up to all CIA recruiters: if you are looking for people who don't talk, emergency room nurses should get top priority in hiring.

Three hours later, with my husband laying down moaning and me trying to get comfortable in a plastic chair, our fourth nurse came in with some serious drugs and casually mentioned that surgery would not be performed until the morning.

I had enough. My husband agreed that I should go home to the kids (who had better be sleeping by 12:30 am!) and tried to relax. By 2 am I had fallen asleep, realizing unhappily that I would have to get up at 6 am to get the kids to school and perform carpool duties.

So now I wait. Surgery began around 8ish am (once again, serious CIA material here) and I hope to get a call to come and fetch my fetching husband sometime this afternoon.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Flying Off The Handle

Two day-long Jewish holidays that end when Shabbat begins kinda drive me crazy. Add to the the screaming, yelling, drinking and mad cap eating that describe Simchat Torah and you can understand why I'm on edge.

So when Shabbat ended a few hours ago, I took some time to myself. Lounged in a bath. Tried to put things in perspective. That's when I felt guilty all over again for what happened today.

It's still hot in LA, and in shul, even though you could hear the air conditioning working, the amount of people packed in one small area made the cold air turn hot. My boys went AWOL - one actually went home on his own, while another decided not to attend shul at all. The other two were still in bed when I came home, all in a huff to put things right.

Needless to say, all the boys ended up in shul before long. So with a certain amount of irritation, I settled down for the Torah reading, new month blessing and Musaf. Next up, catered lunch. Not more food. In terms of my self control, I realized the end was near.

I asked my daughter to take my Tehillim to the lunch room for me, and when she showed up without it, I ran to fetch it, and returned to a backhanded punch in the eye by a woman who obviously didn't see me behind her. I let her have it.

She was so sorry, and I was so mad, that my friends came and took my away from her, looked me in the face and let me vent. Then I felt bad - I knew I couldn't let another person feel bad for something they obviously didn't mean to do.

So I apologized. And she apologized. And we hugged. Then we ate lunch, drank wine, made untold number of L'Chaims (we're Lubavitchers, we L'Chaim everything) and the day was done.

Even though I apologized, I still feel bad. I think that's what G-d wants me to feel - bad about my anger. Get a grip girl, He seems to be saying. It's a big world out there and not everyone is gonna make you happy. Suck it up and control yourself.

I got the message. Now all I need is the strength of character and mind to put it to good use.