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.