Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chicken Story

Dov went shopping at Rami Levy Thursday night and as he approached the meat counter, the solitary Jewish worker behind the counter, who always waits on Dov looked at him and said, "Judge."

Dov was flustered. He stuttered, "How did you know my wife is in Judge?"

One of the Arab workers walked over and shook his head, "Chicken," he said. "He's trying to say "chicken" in Arabic, but he's saying it wrong. It's Juszh!"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Contemplating the Meaning of Funk

I'm in a funk today. I woke up that way and it's been gathering steam. Maybe it started before I woke up. I think it began last night when I checked my mail and found out that a Facebook comment I made on Friday had offended someone. There was nothing I could do about it in any active sense, since I don't post to Facebook on Saturday nights for religious reasons (it's Shabbos somewhere in the world--don't want anyone to err on my account). But I could think about it, worry over it, and obsess.

It was about my friend Michael's hamster. Michael's beloved dog Phoebe passed away earlier this year, and now his hamster Diego had gone to that hamster heaven in the sky. I thought about what I wanted to say to him, something that showed I care yet put this sad event into perspective. I said the wrong thing--I guess. In retrospect--that is.

I wrote: "Maybe you should check the mezuzahs. First your dog, now your hamster..."

Concerned that this maybe sounded a bit cavalier, I added, "Sorry for your loss."

Well, someone didn't take kindly to my comments and said so: "
i dont appreciate that mezuza comment.."

"Oh no," I thought. "I did it again. Stuck that darned foot in my mouth again."

"Ouch!" I wailed internally. Yeah. I do stupid things and then I hurt. It's probable I hurt more than the people I hurt with my dumb words if that makes any sense.

So, I went into a funk.

Funk. It's an interesting word. It means a bad smell, a kind of cool music with a beat, and a state of depression. It also means to shrink back from something. Except for the bad smell part, it probably fits me to a T right about now. At least I haven't noticed anyone actively backing away from me today. At least. Thank God for soap and water. Still does the trick, far as I can tell.

Here is why I'm a writer: I take chances and say exactly what I feel, even if it means I go too far and end up regretting my words and wishing I could take them back so fast I'd choke on them, shrivel up, and croak, God Forbid. It means I'm too damned honest and will say what I think when I should shut the hell up. And it means I'm emotional and get embroiled in my own emotions. It's an innate kind of manic-depression that no drug can assist.

Some days I should probably just hide under a rock.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

JUDGE--The Song of Devora

Opening night of JUDGE--The Song of Devora is a week from Sunday. My nervous system is starting to take in the nearness of the event, just kind of humming in the background as I go about the daily acts of work, housework, parenting, and being myself.

I still feel a bit of a tingle when I remember the last time I was on a stage. I think it was three years ago. This was during the time I was singing bass in an a cappella choir called Shir A Cappella. The moment that stands out for me at that last performance was the way one woman made her way to me, singling me out of a choir consisting of 13 women to ask, "You're a tenor, right?"

I just looked at her. I was in a kind of stupor, and I couldn't grasp her meaning at the time. Yudit, who sang bass with me, realized I was tongue-tied, so she threw her arm around my shoulder and said, "We're the bass. We BE the bass."

Bass is the lowest of the five voices comprising an a cappella group.

Only later did I manage to process the meaning of what that woman had asked. She was commenting on the fact that my voice is so low that it is even lower than the lowest woman's vocal range, the alto. My voice falls into the male tenor range. This woman noticed the rarity of my range and had sought me out to compliment me.

Wow. I had a groupie!

The thought of that woman sometimes pops into my head at odd moments. It's a nourishing image for me. When I feel filled with self-doubt and insecurity, I rerun that event to give myself a boost. That's not so terrible, is it? I hope I'm not a total narcissist for liking that image of the woman and remembering what she said to me.

I confess that I am in love with performance. I adore getting up on a stage. It feeds my soul in a way that nothing else quite matches.

The day before a performance I'm a wreck and cannot eat. If I try to eat something light, it turns out to be a mistake. It won't stay down. I feel like a zombie or an emptied-out shell, and it's hard to believe that I will be able to do anything on stage except to stand, vacant-eyed and silent, shivering under the lights.

But the moment I am onstage, there is a transformation. I feel filled with electricity and power. There is this superhighway of information flowing between me and the audience. Synchronization is complete. They are mine and I am theirs and nothing else exists. I am flying high, way above the world and my everyday life.

Even later, when the show is over, the makeup is removed and the costume hung with loving hands, I am still feeling the thrill, still feeling high and somehow more alive.

The high lasts for about three days.

As I feel the adrenaline ebb away, something else creeps in and I feel sad and wistful. Almost empty. It's over.

What's great about JUDGE is that it's not a one-time thing. There will be at least nine performances. Maybe more if they like us. We'll see.

I'm ridiculous to think of it, but I can't help but feel sad thinking about the end of this wonderful experience. I don't know why I have to think about that now. I try not to think about it and just enjoy the moments as they arrive--but can you tell--I'm a bit of a junkie when it comes to performance and that includes performance of any kind. Doesn't matter what it is. I like the camaraderie between the performers, stage makeup, the lights, the applause--the whole shebang. It will be so hard to say goodbye.

Photo credits: Sharon Katz.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicken Fat and Other Delights

I just did a favorite kitchen task and defatted my chicken soup. I use a lot of bones in my soup and then let it chill overnight so that it gels from all the natural gelatin in the bones. The next morning, I place the pot of soup on the counter, grab a paper towel, press it over the surface of the gelled soup in my stock pot, making sure the towel hugs the very edges where soup meets stainless steel. Then Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzht! I lift the paper towel. Et Voila! The top of the soup is now clear jelly and all the fat is trapped in my trusty paper towel.

Kewl. It's the small things that give me those godlike feelings. I like feeling competent and knowledgeable. It's a hell of a lot better than feeling frightened and insecure, right?

Speaking of which--my job. Yeah. My new job. I'm still feeling my way around the immensity of the task before me. I'm still in the phase of, "EEK. What have I done??? I'm not capable of doing all THAT."

But with time, the brush will be cleared away and I will see the path. I always do. I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact. Of course I feel confident in the kitchen. I've been doing that for 30 years. But this job is something never before experienced. I do think I have all the skills needed to acquit myself well enough. But as the Good Book says, "All beginnings are hard."

Meantime, on other scores, the Raise Your Spirits troupe is getting closer to the opening night of JUDGE, in which I play Hever the Kenite. I have been foresworn from sharing in public what goes on in rehearsals, but there's nothing to stop me from describing some of the funnier interactions I have with my friend Tsipora on the way home from a LONG evening of rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing until you just about DROP from fatigue.

A bunch of us piled into Tsipora's car for the ride home. The rear window of the car was all fogged up. But we were all loaded down with bags of costumes and props and couldn't find the squeegee thing in all the morass of general stuff lining the floor of the car. It was determined that the only one of us who could get out of the car was Avital, sitting in the backseat and that she must wipe the window before we could proceed. But with what would she wipe the window??

I managed to grab hold of Tsipora's handbag which was buried under an avalanche of bags sitting on my left foot (I was in the front seat on the passenger side). Tsipora dug around and pulled out a crumpled ball of tissue which she offered to Avital. Avital took the tissue with understandable reluctance, and just as she was out of reach of hearing, Tsipora proclaimed at large, "Last Use!"


Monday, October 4, 2010

Passing Thought

It used to be I didn't blog unless I had something momentous to say and knew a really cool way to say that momentous something. But I've been trying to write more often here, by hook or by crook, come Hell or high water, no matter what.

I often think up great material for my blog and then realize that--NO--I can't possibly write that for public consumption. It's a terrible drag.

The best writing is intimate and honest. But that kind of material tends to be stuff you just don't air in public.

Meantime, if I'm to write everyday, I'm going to be boring a great deal of the time.

The nature of the beast: Blogs are oh-so-public and you just don't dare write your BEST material.



Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Today turned out to be so wonderful. I went into the office today to hear a presentation by the brains of the new reading remediation system I'll be writing about. I was enthralled, just transfixed by Yossi as he explained all the science behind the process of reading. It just blows me away to think of the coincidences that led me to this great job.

Dov was doing odd jobs for Yossi, who was moving to a different neighborhood in my town. Dov just happened to ask Yossi what he did for a living, and when he discovered that Yossi was a scientist who had developed a remediation program for reading difficulties, Dov thought to ask if Yossi had a website and did he, by any chance need a content writer?

Yossi had just begun the process of building the company and was about to start developing a website. He did indeed, need a content writer; one like me who had experience in dumbing down for the layman, difficult technical concepts. All of us, Yossi, Dov, and I thought this was a clear-cut case of divine intervention (hashgacha pratis) bringing us together.

There were other factors that made this a good match. For instance, I had served as a reading teacher for eight years to 3-6 year-old boys on my former settlement. In certain Jewish communities, boys are expected to be reading by the time they enter first grade. This is fine in theory, but in practice, the boys aren't always quite at the stage of reading readiness at age 3 or even at age 6.

As a result, I had done a great deal of reading during the time I served as a teacher on the subject of reading: what are the processes involved in the act of reading and so forth. I needed to figure out how to get the kids who had difficulties, reading in time for first grade. So I had done some research on the topic.

All this means that I had more than just a fleeting intimacy with the subject of reading difficulties when this job landed in my lap, seeming, as it did, to arrive from the heavens.

But today was the first time I got a taste of what it is that Yossi has achieved with his work in the field. And I was impressed that it's not just some fraudulent trickery set up to dupe some poor unsuspecting, desperate parents out of their money. Gosh, I was impressed!

I didn't want to voice this earlier, but I'd been so afraid I would be forced to work for a bunch of charlatans and trust me, there are a lot of them in this (unregulated) field. But this is the furthest thing from the facts of this situation. This is science, not some gimmick pretending to be a miracle worker nor is it a silly gadget with unfounded claims .

I can't spill the beans here—I have to save this for my job. I'll share the website address once we get everything launched. But this is such KEWL science. It made me get goose-flesh. I listened to Yossi hold forth for almost three hours and never once felt the least bit of boredom. That never--well, almost never--happens to me.

I have always tuned out lectures, long classes, cassette tapes of classes, and teachers of almost any stripe. There have been rare instances in which I felt engaged for lengthy periods of time in a classroom situation. In my former neighborhood, there was a woman named Chaya Horowitz who held classes in Navi (Prophets) every Shabbos afternoon for the neighborhood women. Chaya was one of the very few teachers who have ever been able to hold my attention.

Yossi is another one.

I am so excited to be working with this company and so grateful for the chance to do some really good work in something that I believe in—something that fascinates me and can help people, too. Wow. Pinch me. I'm dreaming.

Wednesday, I go in to the office again for another presentation, and today I came home with a stack of reading material to go through. I also took voluminous notes during Yossi's presentation and asked numerous questions. I am totally sucked into the charm and energy of this company. I love the office space, too. It's almost a shame I said I'd work mostly from home.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My First Day at Wo--Oh, Look! A Squirrel!

The holidays have come and gone and Sunday was here. *gulp* Today was my first day on the job. Part of me was eager to get started, and the other part was just a wee bit nervous. I bit the bullet and sent an email off to my boss Larry, asking him what I could do today.

Larry is still working out the best way to send me massive quantities of material to my home office and as we discussed at my interview, I really do need to come into the office again, to get the full presentation on the system from the research guy, Yossi (we set up a meeting for tomorrow). My job will be to generate content about this innovative system which is said to be life-changing for people with learning disabilities like ADD and dyslexia.

In the meantime, Larry asked me to surf the 'net and find the creme de la creme of blogs and websites on the subject of learning disabilities. I also got a real live business address. WooHOO! I am a grownup.

So, I spent a very pleasurable several hours today surfing the net. I thought I'd share some of the funniest blogs and the more interesting websites with my vast *Nyuk* audience, here on Judeanrose.

Let's start with cool science for laymen with pretensions to geekiness. That would be: where you find neat things like this clip on the evolution of the cube:
There are some nice articles here relating to what some people term "the gift of dyslexia" for instance this piece about a Nobel Prize Winner who said, "My parents were scientists. But I wasn’t the sort of child who did science fairs. One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid." - Dr. Carol Greider

Then there's Ryan, whose blog personifies ADD: Ryan's ADD. I love this guy. LOL. I love the Jurassic Park photo entitled Fractal Geometry at its Best. I mean geometry, Hell. That's my worst nightmare. I failed geometry three times. Did you guess? I have discalculia. ARGH. I relate, Ryan. I relate.

Last but not least, for comic relief, hie yourself over to: So I married an ADDer My favorite entry was this one: For Partners of People with AD/HD: WTF Are You Talking About?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Shrinking World

Z ast night, Dov and I attended our friend Alex's birthday party, an annual event hosted by Alex and Maralin in their Sukkah with much aplomb--great food, people, conversation, atmosphere--it's all there in spades.

Maralin served trays of cold cuts from a prize winning Swiss sausage-maker named Hess, the self-titled Sausage King who brought his skills with him to Israel when he made Aliyah some years ago. I had read descriptions of some of his creations and had yearned to try them for quite some time. I was not disappointed. Good bread, an assortment of mustards, slaw, potato salad, and pickles rounded out the offerings along with booze like Glenlivet Nadurra, Aberfeldy, some wines and liqueurs, the last, presumably for the ladies. I tried to be a good girl and pretended I didn't want to taste the single malts...

There were several conversations going on at table, all of them interesting, making it hard for me to choose my focus. One end of the table was discussing Evangelist Christian support for Israel and The Rapture, while my end of the table was focused on Israeli construction methods and practices in my neighborhood. At some point, Dov began to speak to the woman on my right, Ann Dansker, about delicatessens in their mutual hometown of Chicago, and then the talk drifted to Ann's late father, who used to be a regular sight as he took his daily constitutionals in our town of Efrat.

I recognized Ann's father's name and realized that Ann is cousin to one of our regular posters at the Jewishgen General Discussion Group, where I monitor the moderators' list and handle support mail. The talk turned to genealogy, one of my fave hobbies. When Ann realized how much I liked this topic, she began telling me what she knew about her family. But you could have knocked me over with a feather when she said, "My maternal grandmother was from Eishyshok."

I broke out in goosebumps and said, "We are landsmen!"

My maternal grandfather's family, the Kopelman and the Janofsky clans, came from Vasilishok, only 27 miles away from Eishyshok. Lots of Kopelmans settled in Eishyshok, too. Both towns belonged to the same Uezd (district) back in the days before Vashilishok became part of Belarus, Lida Uezd.

I realized that it was very possible that Ann and I might even be related. Not really a far-fetched notion I thought, as I scanned her face and saw features so similar to those of my maternal relatives that I cried out and brought the fact to Dov's attention. Ann pooh-poohed the idea, but Dov saw exactly what I meant.

To my great delight, we talked family trees the rest of the evening. Ann had some terrific stories about her family. In particular, I enjoyed hearing about her ancestor who stood in as the Cohen at the Pidyon HaBen, the redemption ceremony for a first born son, for the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu Kremer's son. Ann's relative was the only Cohen the Vilna Gaon trusted with this honor, because the Gaon was certain that Ann's great great grandfather's blood had not been sullied with Chassidus. The great irony is that two generations later, the surname of this line became "Chassid."

Is this stuff just random--Ann growing up in Chicago, and I in Pittsburgh, while our ancestral shtetlach were in such close proximity to each other? And now, both of us, at a dinner party in Israel, seated next to each other. How do these things just happen?

It isn't even that rare. Take Moshe Silverman, who runs Philly Pizza, a small pizzeria in Efrat, for instance. We lived on neighboring settlements, Maale Amos and Metzad, in the middle of nowhere, A/K/A the Judean Desert. Moshe and I rode the same bus line for 18 years. I became friends with Moshe's wife when we both had babies at the same hospital on the same day. Then I began to research my family tree and discovered that our great grandmothers, Moshe's and mine, were sisters. Whoa!

How did we end up in such close proximity to each other? Is there some kind of lesson here? Am I reading too much into these things?

All I know is, whenever this stuff happens, I get goosebumps.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Week Has Been Brought To You By Sukkos

I love Sukkos, though I do wish it lasted a bit longer. I have my coffee and then start making batches of buttermilk pancakes. It's the one time we really have to breakfast together. It's nice. There's no rush to get out to go to school or work.

Sometimes we play Stephane Grappelli on the stereo as a breakfast accompaniment. The kids think there is something magical about records--that there's some kind of singular sound you get with record albums that you can't get on a CD or with an MP3.

After breakfast, I go on Facebook and play Pathwords until my hand turns numb and then switch off and play some Bejeweled Blitz. Silly, mindless fun.

After awhile, I tear myself away from the computer and make lunch. Something fleishig, which is unusual for us. But on Chol HaMoed, we try to have fleishigs everyday. Today it was a humongous pot of spaghetti and meat sauce.

When lunch is cleared away, Dov and I take a nap without any need to set a time limit. It's unbelievable: no time constraints, no work commitments. Wow. This is the life.

The rest of the evening is time with the kids and husband and wife time. Dov took the kids out to toss a few balls while I cleaned up the kitchen. Later we have an invite to our friend Alex's sukkah. His birthday is on Sukkos, so every year, the same crowd gets together for a festive meal. Very laid back and much enjoyed by all. Great food, too.

There has been only one little thing nagging me at the back of my mind. Every time the thought comes, I banish it away and pretty much, it obeys. It's my new job. I start on Sunday.

Each time I take on a new job or task, there's this bit of fear: will I be able to cope? Will this be beyond my capabilities? How will my new job impact on my other responsibilities of home, children, and the musical I'm in that is set to premier on Oct. 24 and is in rehearsal almost every evening?

The angst is always for nothing. I somehow manage each time. And the truth is, it's getting easier to take on new projects because I see I can cope. Can it be I'm growing up??

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Healthy Competition?

This morning I discovered that my husband had started a blog: He didn't bother to tell me, he posted his first blog entry to Facebook. My first thought echoed my late Aunt Mildred's thoughts when my late Uncle Myron Cope told her he was to have his own radio show: "You'll embarrass me!"

Myron, may he rest in peace, had a speech defect in addition to having the kind of voice that has been described as grating and nasal, for instance.

There's nothing wrong with Dov's voice. And he does have an original way of thinking. He has important things to say and I'm glad he's created a venue for his thoughts. He deserves a wider audience. But Dov seems to think that grammar and punctuation are just not that important. That embarrasses me. In a big way. *sigh*

But it's not just about Dov being grammar/punctuation challenged, it's about competition. I can't help but feel that we're having some kind of competition, here. Not that I want competition. It must be a testosterone thing.

I started writing letters to the editor of the Jerusalem Post in 2001. After the first few were published, Dov started writing letters to the editor, too. I saw him turn red on more than one occasion when a mutual friend would tell me how right on my letters were without mentioning Dov's letters.

And then there was Pathwords, a great word game you can access through Facebook. Dov was sure he could beat my high score. He sure tried hard. He blamed his inability to trump my score on his computer, so I let him use mine. Nope. He just couldn't beat me.

But the competition's not just about game scores or how the public views us. This need for competition even dogs us as regards our religious views: whose Torah is THE Torah, or something like that. For example, I found this great quote from the Talmud: "No matter how short your wife is, lean down and take her advice." Bava Metzia 59a

I read it to Dov because I thought this was a beautiful sentiment. I even made it my signature quote for my email correspondence.

This all sent Dov straight to the Gemara where he siezed upon the fact that there, on the very same page, was written the following verse, "He who follows his wife's counsel will descend into Gehenna (Hell)."

It turns out that the first quote may refer to spiritual matters while the second refers to secular ideas. I don't really care. The first quote is WONDERFUL and speaks to me.

The second quote doesn't sully that for me. Not at all. Dov can pick and choose and so can I.

I choose the beauty, he chooses the harsh discipline. It says something about him and about me, and doesn't say much at all about the Torah, other than that it is very generous in its adaptability for the individual's nature.

Yesterday, Yitzchak asked me why men have to dwell in the sukkah for an entire week but women don't have to be in the sukkah at all. I told him my favorite explanation, which comes from R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, who says that by reenacting for a full week, their time in the desert, Jewish men awaken in themselves their sense of their own history and in particular, the time when God's divine glory hovered over them in the form of the Annanei HaKavod, the Clouds of Glory. Living in the sukkah makes this part of their history and spirituality, tangible for men and helps carry them through the whole year.

Yitzchak said, "So why don't women need to do this?"

I told him, "R. Hirsch says that when Hashem took Chava (Eve) from Adam's rib, He gave her the part that is innate spirituality. She has this direct tie to God and so she doesn't need to playact and do these commandments to tie her to God: she's ALREADY tied to Him."

That irked Dov no end. He started rummaging through books. About ten minutes later, he comes to me, triumphant and reads to me from Taamei Minhagim a section that says that women don't observe the positive commandments such as living in the sukkah, because they may be too busy "serving" their men. Dov read the word "meshubad" to me, twice. It means "bound." He was SO happy. He was sure I would find the wording and the ideas espoused here annoying beyond belief.

He was wrong.

I believe that the Torah is very flexible and provides a variety of views to suit the individual. He finds the Torah that speaks to him, and I have found the Torah that speaks to me. There's no competition here.

So, I have decided that I'm not going to be embarrassed about his blog. I will express myself here and he will express himself there, in his own inimitable fashion and I will be quite happy that I am dotting all my i's and crossing all my t's, while he doesn't really care about that stuff.

It's not a competition. Not to me, at any rate.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Omens, Accidents, and a Reminder

I always find writing cathartic: a kind of release, so I was surprised that yesterday's blog entry, containing memories of my late father laid me low. I was downright blue though I'm not sure why.

I could have written reams more about my father but the kids were needing lunch and I had other housework to attend. Besides, a blog is not meant to be a book, and that's the direction toward which that piece was flowing. All day long, new memories of my father kept popping into my mind and I kept thinking: I should have written this. I should have written that.

At one point, I even felt guilty: I was short-changing my father by not enumerating all those good things about him. I know that's ridiculous. But logic and emotion don't always go hand in hand for this writer.

Feeling sad made me sluggish, and I had trouble getting through my work. There were good parts to my day, but most were mixed batches of good and bad. For instance, I was just putting the finishing touches on an email to my editor to let her know I was quitting when the electricity blew. So what should have been a satisfying moment became sullied.

Was the power-out some kind of omen? A harbinger of bad luck, a portent of evil, relating God Forbid, to my new position. *Gulp*
I know, I know. Altogether silly of me. No one else would make that kind of connection. Right?

Later that evening, I discovered that the power-out had affected a large portion of the country and was due to the accidental leaning of a natural gas company worker against the button that cuts off the power supply. Yeah. You can laugh. Laugh all you want. Guffaw, even. Only in Israel, right? But as Freud said, "There are no accidents."

I felt better toward the end of the evening, even though there was this interminable rehearsal.

The reason I perked up? My friend Tsipora told me about a happy event, a surprise party her family made for her and her twin sister, and just hearing about this gave me vicarious pleasure. Funny how that works. Even thinking about it now makes me smile.

Moral of the story: when you have good news, share it and brighten someone's day.

I know. Nothing groundbreaking there. Just a little reminder. And with that boys and girls, I bid you farewell.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl

T oday, it is the 36th anniversary (yahrzeit) of my father's passing. A year or so ago, I had a rare chance to visit my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after a very long absence. The experience was so rich that it was almost impossible to take it all in as it was unfolding before me. I am still processing the various events, sights, sounds, and smells (fresh cut grass on a humid summer's day, the musty smell of old prayer books and wood at Poale Tzedek Synagogue, the fish/mud scent of the Allegheny River, the perfume/chemical smell of department stores, my mother's cheek, the big blue slide in Frick Park--does the blue slide have a scent?? Of course it does!) of that trip. But there were some sour notes.

Few sour notes, it must be said, and most of them insignificant, but still, they horned in on my little trip here and there and made their presence known. In particular, I have rerun in my obsessive little mind, again and again, a particular instance in which I ran into an old friend of my parents, a woman I call "Aunt So-and-So" because she was so close to my parents and always at the house for weekly bridge games. I saw her as I was retrieving a shopping cart, right outside the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle, A/K/A The Iggle. We recognized each other right away though we hadn't seen each other for over 10 years and began to catch each other up on various pieces of news.

Somehow, the conversation drifted in the direction of my father, George M. Meyers, who passed away in 1974, when I was but 13 years old. "Aunt So-and-So" was telling me that never had such a fine man existed before and never would such a fine man exist ever again. But, she continued, "You wouldn't know about that. You never knew him."

I was in shock. My facial expression must have looked pleasant enough but I went into face-freeze mode in which I don't show my real feelings and turn my face into a sort of mannered mask. But inside! It was like a punch in the solar plexus. I felt I couldn't breath. It HURT.

Part of this was her intonation. The words were said in a bitter sense, as if I didn't deserve to know him, as if I weren't worthy of knowing him. Somehow, those words were uttered as an indictment (of my generation?). I got through the rest of the chitchat and kept the wound close. I didn't relate this story to my mother, not wanting to upset her.

There, in the parking lot of the Iggle, I wanted to cry out and bear witness that I did indeed know my father. I knew him better than "Aunt So-and-So" ever could have done. I knew him in ways she couldn't begin to fathom.

I knew that his favorite actor was Frank Sinatra. That's right: his favorite actor and not his favorite singer. He felt that Frank was a brilliant actor and didn't receive his due for his acting performances.

I knew what mood he was going to be in at suppertime by which robe he had chosen to wear after his pre-dinner shower. The white satin number with the fancy black circles meant we were IN TROUBLE.

I knew he liked to eat Kiwanis peanuts and chase them with Chiquita Bananas every evening after dinner while watching TV. I know, because it fell to me to throw away his peels and shells.

I knew that the reason he was obsessed with war movies was due to the fact that he came home from the war with battle fatigue and forced himself to watch those movies as a cure. He always knew the actor's next line and would speak them a split second before the actor, even when it was a movie he'd never seen before. I have inherited this talent.

I knew that he adored rubbing his stubble against my tender cheek to make me cry out.

I knew he was proud of my piano playing and bragged about me to his co-workers. He told me to make a list of whatever music books I coveted and he would buy them for me as long as I promised to learn the theme song from The Sting so he could record it and play it for the guys at work. I kept my bargain and so did he.

I remember how, I alone, of my siblings, still enjoyed going on outings with my father even though I had passed the age of early childhood. Even a walk after dinner was an adventure. Once we walked all the way to the reservoir, and he showed me how I could drink from the water fountains there and no water ever tasted so good. Or we'd take off on a Sunday to view the trillium trails or go to the zoo where he'd tell me interesting facts about animal behavior.

I remember how he taught me the way to make friends with a dog. He showed me how to hold my hand out under the dog's nose to let him get my scent. Then, the dog would always be ready to accept my friendship. It always worked, even with the scariest dogs, such as Mr. Solomon's German Shepherd. But it worked especially well when my Daddy was by my side showing me what to do.

I knew that Daddy thought the cemetery was a place of beauty and contemplation and got great peace from our family outings to area cemeteries. I have inherited his fascination with these final resting grounds.

I know that at his funeral, there was no room left for all the people who wished to attend. They stood out in the inclement weather in droves. At the shiva, people we'd never known came up to me and said, "Your father was my best friend."

At the office, they had to close several account books because those people would only do business with George Meyers.

Four years after my dad died, a customer came and asked for him. He was crushed when he heard of my father's passing and began to weep. They called me down from my after-school job as an assistant to the bookkeeper Mary Ban and said, "This is George Meyers' daughter."

He said, "Your father was the finest man who ever walked God's earth."

I knew that my father and mother had a great love for each other but they were too elegant to let it show though on rare occasions, I got to see them dance together in the living room. That was a big treat.

I got to dance with my father at my cousin Arlene's wedding, and it was the first and last time I ever did so.

I knew that my father never gave up his dreams of furthering himself. He took night classes in architecture at CMU until the responsibilities of his job and his growing family forced him to give up his dreams of higher education. But he took classes in life drawing and would draw me in my P.J.'s as a special treat before bedtime. He took classes in Hebrew. He painted a beautiful painting of Rabbi Avraham Twerski using a newspaper clipping as his model, and another painting of a cattle car on its way to Auschwitz, which hangs in my home.

I knew that we were not allowed to buy clothing from Penny's because this concern was owned by anti-Semites, and for the same reason we could not buy anything from Germany and Spain. My sister once bought a used Volkswagen and he didn't speak to her until the old clunker gave out and died.

I know that he cared deeply about instilling Yiddishkeit into his children and it is because of my father's great love for his Judaism that I became religious and came to live in Israel. He always covered his head at the table, and had regular learning sessions with the associate rabbi of our shul. This in spite of the fact that he came from a home that was as secular as can be.

I know that he was a good father, a loving husband, and a workaholic, who left the house each morning at 5 AM to give the office his best efforts. I would sometimes join him in the early dark hours of the morning as he ate his breakfast and I can still smell his daily dose of Theragram. Sometimes I didn't wake up in time to be with him, and would awaken only when I heard the rustle of him taking his bag lunch from the landing on the stairs near the front door. After his death, I woke up at 5 AM each morning, expecting to hear the bag rustle, so I could go back to sleep, but I never heard it all that year or ever again. I know that after my father's own father died, he took over the support of his mother and younger brother, even though he was too young, too young.

I remember how I rolled my eyes and wanted to die one evening during my 12th year when Daddy came home from work and informed me that none other than Fred Rogers had visited the store, "I told him my daughter Barbara's favorite TV show is Mr. Rogers Neighborhood!"

I remember how he used to tell us often, "All I ask is that you make me a grandfather," and in a joking manner, I would always respond, "Poof, you're a grandfather."

Yet, his fondest wish was not fulfilled. He never was a grandfather, though I gave birth 12 times. He was too good for this earth. Or maybe he just did his duty faster than most folks. I don't know. But I do know that I did know my father. Yes I did. I knew him as only a daughter could know her father.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Oh the Irony, Oh the Agony

If you'll recall, I started this narcissistic venture as a way of jump-starting my career at a time I feared it was going into stasis. It was a proactive step. Something I could do when there was really very little to do except submit my resume everywhere and worry.

It was a good idea at the time and time has proven the wisdom of putting myself out here for everyone's perusal.

I write 100 web content articles a month and over time, I've created an impressive body of work. Alas, all of those articles are unattributed. So, though I've amassed so much work, I have nothing to show for it all.

This blog, however, is a different story. My name is right out here, front and center. Google me, this blog comes up. Which was kind of the idea in the first place. Get my name out there, show my writing, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a nibble from a potential employer.

That time has come.

Dov got a new client, asked him what he did for a living, and then asked if by any chance they needed a content writer. What a coinkydink, they did. They'd contact me when they were ready to get started and discuss the idea.

Meantime, unbeknownst (why is spell check telling me this isn't a word, when Merriam Webster clearly says it IS?) to us, they googled me and found this blog. They liked me, they liked me, to paraphrase Sally F.

All you writers out there: start a blog. It pays. It gets your name and your work out there, even if people don't click on your google ads (I've not had a single click). But maybe don't be quite as brave as this writer and bear your kishkes (Yiddish for intestines) for all to see. Yes, honest writing is good writing, but in a moment you'll see what I mean.

Things are hopping with this job offer. And if it pans out, my actual name will appear on the website--for a change. But guess what? They asked me if I have an English name to use as an alternative to Varda--they love my blog, but their clients may not. Hmmmm.

They share my views, they like my work, but I have to go incognito? Dunno quite what to make of that. I could change my name HERE. I could close down the blog. I could use my English name with the company, or I could be adamant about keeping my name and the blog and risk offending a potential employer. ARGH.