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My Animal Instinct

Today’s post is brought to by Plinky. I answered today’s question, of which animal I’d choose to be:

If I had to choose which animal to be, I think I’d go with the American Bald Eagle.

They are lookers.

They are strong

They are powerful.

They are respected.

They are talented.

They are smart.

They are also an endangered species, so anyone who messes with them is instantly considered a jerk.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Musings, The Sporadic Side

 

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Depressing Discoveries

I’ll write when I have time, is what I and every aspiring, but lazy writer says. I have ideas, I wrote 5 books – in my head, but pen to paper, never happens.

I’m different, I said. I REALLY don’t have time. No excuses. There is no time. Teaching, prepping, marking papers, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing and plain old mommying (just as I sat down to write this my son came with a Dr. Suess book “Mommy, read a ducky feet!”), make up my entire day, there is no time for jotting down a few epiphanies.

Then my sister got engaged, and is now married (Mazal Tov RL!!!) and I wanted to give her a special gift. Nothing you can buy in the store (Can’t afford that anyway), but something from the heart, practical, and hand- made for her – a cookbook, with a monthly menu, and tips for the kitchen (When you have no time – use the stovetop. No patience – the oven).

I remembered when I first got married how overwhelming the whole kitchen experience was. Forget about the actual cooking, where I had zero to little experience, what I found most frustrating and anxiety provoking was deciding what to make in the first place. Once I knew what I was making, everything was much easier and focused. My sister has about the same cooking experience as me, and I figured she’d probably fall prey to the same mental torture as me, hence the menu.

Of course, since I have no time, this cookbook seemed to be more like a pipedream than an actuality. But I really wanted to do it, just like I really want to write. The wedding got closer and closer, and one morning I woke up and the Shabbos Kallah was a less than week away. And it was the end of the term, insane marking, essays, quizzes, rubrics, averages – big pain, little time.

I really wanted to do it though, so I did. I just did. I sat down, and did it. I even went to Amazing Savings to buy a nice loose-leaf (awesome store!), and then the Dollar Tree for sheet protectors (AS didn’t have). It was done in a night and day. That was it. Probably took about 6 hours total. I don’t know where I found the time. Everything I usually do in that time was accomplished too.

It’s motivating to realize that if I want to do something, it will get done. Very depressing though to realize I maybe don’t want to write as much I think I do.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Food, Musings, Slice of Life

 

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The Meaning of Art

The bathroom was scented in soothing lavender, until she flicked on the light. Chipped tiles in pale pink, a plastic cushion on the toilet seat that let out a hiss when sat on, and too many tabloids in the rack beside the toilet cheapened the scent. When she inhaled this time, all she smelled was the alcohol base. Rummaging quickly, she found a pair a tweezers and rejoined the group in the living room.

The group was hunched over in a circle examining a foot. It was a regular foot, toes possibly a little stubby, with too many prominent veins, but a most ordinary foot by most accounts, except for the wooden stake thrust through it. The girl handed over the tweezers to an awaiting hand,

“You really think getting rid of residual splinters will help the foot heal, and take to the stake?” she asked, leaning in too closely.

“You’re blocking my light,” was the terse response. The girl frowned, gave her shoulders a slight shrug and backed off, retreating to a tartan couch in the corner. She looked around the room, lips pursed, eyes narrowed. The walls had been whitewashed some years ago, but even white fades, and the edges had a grey crumbly tinge. The rose linoleum floor was curling up and dying in the corner, and the Coach bag on the table was a lousy knockoff – the pattern didn’t even match up seamlessly.

Her legs crossed and uncrossed, then shifted weight to the other hip. This place was supposed to be cool, artsy really. Blow her mind – creatively he had told her. All she has seen was a lot of blood and some idiot volunteering to put a stake through his foot and let it become a part of his being. The point was to be one with the earth, and to take what you give, at least that’s what she understood. She wasn’t sure though, because they were using a lot of big words like trancendalize, and everyone else seemed to be in awe. So maybe it wasn’t that, because, that idea is stupid and art is not.

Moans and heavy breathing, gave pace to the movement, as well as moist air of sweat.  Dirty gauze pads, and empty tubes of triple antibiotic littered the floor.

“Who was the idiot that didn’t sand down the stake?” Someone asked. There was an awkward silence, everyone considering turning on each other, when the serene voice of Sarah, occupant of the apartment and resident artist said,

“Be one, take what you give. Do you think lumberjacks sharpen their blades to ease blow to the tree? No, it’s a hack job. As is this, metaphorically or course. Sanding down the stake would diminish the integrity of our work”

Sitting on the couch, the girl frowned again. So she had understood what they were talking about, and this was it. This is what is meant to be an artist, this is what the starving artist’s life was – being an idiot and coming up with a stupid reason to rationalize it – make it seem almost intelligent and worthy? It was like being a teenager all over again, the only difference being the sequence of event: teens do stupid things then come up with a reason why they should have done it; artist think of rationales and then due stupid things to prove it.

“Where you going?” He asked, as started to make her exit.

“Home.” Was her one word response. She had time to be a purposeful idiot when she grew up, no reason to be one now when she could still get away with it all, protected under the teenage bracket.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Writing

 

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Those Who Don’t Learn History…

I have so many childhood memories. Most of them involve me getting into trouble, or being embarrassed in some form or another. A story of my second-grade self just came up the other day while teaching. My students asked in wonderment “How do you remember that!?”. The answers simple, when you’re hurt, you don’t forget, because if you do, it might happen again.

I suppose when I think about it, I have the happy clichéd childhood memories, of sitting on our front stoop playing watermelon, and pretending that the etchings in the stones by the front of the house made a perfect hopscotch board, and playing tap tap trio, and eating ices, trading stationary and the like. They’re not individual memories though; they’re collective.

I don’t remember single times that I played elimination in front of the house. It was something we did every day. I don’t remember all savvy stationary trades I made, just that we did it often and I had a great collection. The only individual memories I have on these collective ones, are the bad one – where things went wrong – not super right. Like the time Elisheva Link bombed a ball into my belly and it hurt so much I sat out the rest of the gain and everyone laughed at my for being weak. Or the time Zahava Feller tried to trade my Lisa Frank stationary for her Snoopy reinforcements, and Miri, my sister, interfered and told her off for offering me such a bad trade. I suppose that should be a good memory, I was spared, but I remember feeling ashamed that I was almost conned, and why didn’t I know this myself.

I was recently reminded of a third grade tale – the time I returned a WAY overdue book to the Bais Yaakov libarary, and I was so afraid to tell Mrs. Florence, the librarian, because she was scary, she had a short pointy nose, blue eyes that bulges with veins, and of course the requisite high shrill of librarians. You can’t really blame a third grader for being afraid. So I put the book down on her desk, like it was any other return, and walked briskly away.

Later on in the day, there was a student messenger knocking on my classroom door. She held a note, which my teacher proceeded to read out loud. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember it, recounting what I had done, and the words “and ran away!”. My teacher read those words with much drama. I wanted to protest, to explain, and maybe deny, but I was just so embarrassed by my actions being revealed publically, not just revealed, but reprimanded, and in a way, almost mocked.

Why did they have to do that, both of them, the librarian and my teacher. What point and purpose was there for the librarian to write a dramatic note to my teacher? Address my mother, or me, or really address it, don’t just point out my wrongdoings. And why did my teacher read it aloud? What gain was there besides for just shaming me into more misbehavior.

When I was in High School, I met the librarian. I was helping out the school Chinese auction, and she was the grandmother of one of the heads. She came to “shep nachas” and put in a few tickets. I couldn’t view her as a grandmother. As a loving person. Someone who could care about someone else. I couldn’t reconcile that incident years ago, with that just being a facets of a person, or job really. It hurt me tremendously.

Most days I laugh at the story. Because it’s funny if you tell it over with the right voices and levity. But there’s a part of me that’ll never forget the eyes wide, and iced grip on the little girl’s heart when she realized that she was the subject in the note her teacher was reading.

People ask me why I teach, why I’ve always wanted to teach. I know I’m supposed to say that I love kids, and I want to share, and help them grow and all that too nice-smiley stuff, but really, most of the time, it’s that history doesn’t repeat itself.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Memoir, Teaching

 

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Polishing a Reputation

Polishing a Reputation

image

Lakewood ain’t what it used to be – to blatantly advertise such gashmeis and pritzus.

Is no place to remain unsullied?

I must broaden my horizons, spread my wings and seek purer pastures.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Humor, Jewish

 

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I Just Don’t Know

I’m typing this post from my phone. It’s a pain to capitalize, use apostrophes, and frankly say anything more than I need to. Basically, an atmosphere not really conducive to writing, unless you’re Hemingway succinct – I haven’t reached that level of mastery yet (or probably ever).

So why am I subjecting myself to such obvious torture is a good question you ask. I cancelled the internet service in my house, is the simple answer, or really that is the answer, it just leads to the next question that has a more complex or elusive answer, why did I cancel my Internet service?

I’m not sure. I know it’s good for me. Good for me, on a few important levels:  socially, mentally, and spiritually.

But I feel a little torn, because I always held myself as the voice of reason, crying the internet is a tool, and that it’s the people that use it that are good or bad. And now I seem like the extremist, which I never want to be; the Rambam says to take the middle road with everything (but anger) and this is not it. And now I have to get off my soap box, because I can’t preach moderation if I’m not living it myself (I hate those people who say it’s ok to do something, but they don’t do it themselves).

Suddenly though, I find so many more hours in my day. Hours to to do the things I never get around to: organizing my pictures into albums, patchening a little on supper, playing with my children uninterrupted, with full focus not waiting for something to download, process, or what-not. I have time to breathe and live. And it’s amazing to discoverI can be a fully functional member of society without reading Yahoo’s article “10 Things Your Waiter Won’t Tell You”. I’m enjoying the freedom I never knew I had given up, and with access on my phone, I’m still connected when I need to be, but I’m not going to be idling hours away browsing.

We’ll see how it all works out long term. The people at Verizon say I can keep my service on “vacation” for nine months before it’s made permanent. Nine months…nine months to create a new being of myself-if I choose.

But will I? I just don’t know.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Jewish, Musings

 

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Hosting A Question

Yes, this is my guest bedroom. Yes, I am kidding.

It is the human condition where people believe their beliefs, perspectives, and attitudes to be among the average consensus. Meaning, most people will agree with what we say and do, or at least understand it.

Obviously this is a very flawed logic and condition as evidenced by the amount of frivolous strife a person encounters each day. Arguments over who’s turn it is to take the garbage out, that the driver ahead of you should have made the light, that your mother in law should keep her comments to herself – none of these would have happened if all people were synced. We’re not, yet we still hold ourselves to be normal.

So, I pose a question. We’re all individuals, yet societies norm and averages make up consensus of what is acceptable or not, what falls under the umbrella of the bell curve, and what is beyond standard deviation; I speak on the topic of hostesses, and guests.

I love to play hostess, and rarely have an opportunity to be on the other side, but when I am, this is my modus-operandus – blend in. I don’t like to have my presence shouted from the rafters. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, leave thing undisturbed, and if I do disturb them, to put them back so no one need know that I was here. Some people may perceive this of not liking my hostess, or being intimidated by them. I think it’s a sign of respect. I’m in their home, I play by their rules. Mostly this sort of thing comes up in the bathroom and kitchen, where most guests need to take of their needs, big or small.

Every home has some sort of system as to where every item belongs, and even if there is no system, but a haphazard dump, the things are generally dumped in the same vicinity time and again. The mugs in one cabinet, the towels slung over the oven door handle, the shower curtain drawn shut, the shampoo up in the caddy etc. and guests interact with these items, and use them as they see fit – which is wonderful. What arises next is, what does the guest do with the item once finished with it. Does he place it where he found it, following the order of the home he’s visiting, or does he put it where he finds most convenient – usually in line with the system he has running in his own home?

I’ve already stated that I do the former. All my guests are among the latter. Naturally I think I’m of the standard opinion. Statistics seems to indicate my minority status. But I’m not sure that it makes sense that ALL my guests follow their own system, my view is not that radical that no one else I know subscribes to it. I must therefore draw the conclusion that I am such a wonderful hostess that my guest forget they’re guest, think they’re home, and act accordingly.

So the question, what do you do when you’re a guest in someone else’s home. Will you make me a part of the masses, or further isolate me in my marginal status.

(I realize this post may seem like a chastisement of my guests. It’s not, it’s just a commentary on different perspectives. If a bathmat out of place has me banning guests, I probably have bigger issues.)

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Humor, The Sporadic Side

 

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Good Enough for Some, Isn’t Good Enough

I’m am amateur baker, if you can even award me with that title. When my niece was born and my sister in law and brother in law made a Kiddush for her, I was a good aunt (and sister in law) and sent something over for the occasion. I usually send biscotti, in a cookie jar. It looks cute, doesn’t require much patchkening, and best of all, it tastes good. I’m not sure what possessed me, maybe because it was after Purim, and I had just made all those black and white cookies, and I didn’t want my newly acquired skill to go to waste, I made pink and white cookies.

I worked hard on them, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to results. I didn’t have the right shade of pink, it was a bit bright, due to my food coloring packaging description of “NEON” (I thought it was fun colors to get at the time, I didn’t actually think about how I might use it, and that whatever I would be coloring, I’d like it to resemble edible food, not radioactive waste).

Also, it’s a pain doing each cookie, one side at a time, holding it between your thumb and index finger; I developed temporary carpal tunnel syndrome. But for a first attempt, they were ok. The place where the pink and white met up wasn’t always totally straight. The pink sometimes overlapped the white a little bit, leading to lighter shades of pink in some places. They were really pretty from a short distance though.

I made tons, so I froze most of them, and worked on the final presentation.

Exhibited on a trendy rectangular plate, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon, it was perfect – for Queens. And it was easily one of the fanciest things at the Kiddush. I beamed and blushed with all the compliments.

Fast-forward a month, and brother and sister in law were making a Kiddush for their newest addition. Pregnancy wasn’t being nice to me, and I didn’t have the energy to make something. I kept thinking I did, I even put up a cookie dough on Monday. Made the actual cookies three days later, but the decorating never happened (Pregnancy won that battle).

It was Friday, and I was getting a bit frantic, yes, my brother and sister in law would more than understand and forgive me for not sending something in celebration, but I wouldn’t be able to live it down for myself (besides I wanted my sister in law to send something when I would eventually be making either a Kiddush or shalom zachor – selfish motives, I know).

I remembered my pink and whites, pretty in the freezer, waiting to grace another Kiddush. I took them out, and looked at them scornfully. They weren’t good enough – not for a Lakewood crowd. I could never show my face and be proud of my confections here. Besides, these cookies in Lakewood would almost be insulting to Baal Hasimcha. She’d have to put them out, due to social dictums, but they’d most probably mar the balance and beauty of everything else presented.

Last minute I wrangled something together with my sister’s help (who I was hosting for that Shabbos for the Kiddush). Using the cookies I had yet to decorate, we finagled something that could pass muster in Lakewood and did not require great technical prowess. Shalom al yisroel, I can still show my face in proper society.

I ate those pink and white cookies with my coffee. They tasted great. My other sister in law in Queens is due soon. I might be making another test drive on the pink (or maybe blue) and whites, and see if I’m ready for primetime in Lakewood.

And for those who think I’m crazy, check out the cookies my sister in law sent over for my baby’s Shalom Zachor. This is what I’m up against, and she didn’t take this picture, I did. She thought they weren’t good enough to merit a memory.

It’s not totally about competition, and being good enough, but really doing what’s acceptable and expected in your community. For my ego though, I should maybe consider Queens.

On second thought, Queens is only 20 minutes from Far Rockaway – and my sister – who made these

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Food, Humor, Jewish

 

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Mazal Tov!

It’s a boy!

7lb, 6oz

19 inches

Born 11:52 p.m. June 24th 2012

He is perfect (takes after his Mommy)

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Parenting, Slice of Life

 

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60 Second to a Minute

Alarm clock

Alarm clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m coming to appreciate how lazy I am.

Of late, there have been a few songs sporting the lyrics
“Hayom Kutzer Vehamelacha meruba, vhapoalim atzeivah v’haschar harbei, ubaal habeis dochek”

Roughly translating to,

“The day is short, there’s a lot of work, the workers are lazy, the payoff is great and the owner is concerned.”

It’s a metaphor to this world and the world to come and man is lazy. (for those of you not religiously or literary inclined)

I don’t know why these lyrics are generally matched with catchy tunes, but I find myself hearing them very often – mostly in the form of A.K.A. Pella’s new album, and I’d like to think that they thought for a moment or two about the words that they chose for the song, so I in turn should consider them – and I did – and am.

Now, while I know I have lazy tendencies, I’m not usually slapped in the face with them.

Three weeks ago I was offered a tutoring job that would go through June. I wanted the job, it was a high school girl, with issues right up my alley. My only hesitation though was the time – 9:15 to 11:15 in the morning. I usually didn’t even look groggily at my alarm clock (with no alarm set) until 9:30. How would I possibly manage to pull myself together: up, dressed, fed, ditto for kid, drop off the kid, and be someplace 15 minutes before I even ordinarily scowled properly at the coming day. And besides, a woman in her 8th month doesn’t have that much energy to spare, right?

The money was good though, and with the summer coming, and no jobs, but a baby scheduled, I couldn’t just pass it up.

“I’ll try it out.” I told my husband. “See how it works, how I feel.”

And reassuringly he said,

“Whatever you decide, it’s your decision, I’m good either way.”

So, I took the job, secure in my husband’s support and my option to back out. Two weeks later, I’m ashamed. Did I seriously wake up that late every day? Did my day really not start until I left to teach around two? Was it possible that I never stepped outside, or ran an errand until I had to leave to teach. What was I doing with my time?

Yes, breakfast with my kid was an entire morning’s affair, so was getting him dressed, and changing his diaper. It was leisurely, bordering on lazy, nah, let’s be honest, it was lazy. Now it’s astonishing what I can accomplish in 45 minutes these mornings. And come 11:15 I’ve already achieved, and I’m up and about, doing things I previously felt I had NO TIME for (like I’d constantly tell my husband). My day is profitable (literally and figuratively) at a time where I’m generally wishing I could put my kid in for an early nap. Its horrifying to discover at my age that I actually have the capability to be efficient, and even worse, I might actually be a morning person after all.

My husband too – he’s davening at an earlier minyan so he can still see me in the morning, and I drop him off at yeshiva a 45 minutes before seder even starts (about half hour before he’s usually there). It’s almost a shame the amount of prime parking spots I pass while dropping him off. And he’s learning more, writing more, accomplishing more – in a day that both of us thought had no time in it.

And now I’m left wondering, how much work have I left undone in the field? How much will I have to answer for? Yes, I may have accomplished, but I’m learning that I’m capable of a lot more. How many more hours will I discover in my day, and how soon will I unearth them?

The day is short, there’s a lot of work, and sometimes this worker is not lazy, though the owner’s still concerned.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Musings, Slice of Life

 

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