Written for RivkA

I first met Karin Zuckerman in 1984. We were at JFK Airport traveling to Israel on Nativ 4.
It was my first trip to Israel.
She was there many other times I came back, too.
I know that was year we both remember. It made us different people. She came from a yeshiva and was joining us, USY kids, for our our year in Israel. Already, she was the red headed Zionist with strong opinions many know her to be to this day. Unstoppable.

I admit I was scared of her, she was so "in your face" I found it abrasive and frightening. She was someone who she knew how she felt and didn't hesitate to say what she was thinking. I valued my own thoughts and was not hesitant to speak my mind but she was one over powering personality. She was that girl who wore skirts on our hikes. We wore shorts (shorter than I would like to admit today--I probably would not admit it to my own daughters). She was a challenger. She is a fighter. That gingi spirit wearing long maroon skirts in Uja Aqueduct. I am not sure if I hold a memory or a photographic image in my mind. I can see her then, just as I did every morning at Tefillot.

Then we returned from that fateful year of learning (we learned so much more that year, it would be unfair to call it study). We were all changed for sure, and all of us enhanced for sure.

Certainly Karin who was by then, I think Rivka (but perhaps still with less dagesh on the A at the end or maybe I just wasn't listening). There we were four more years at Barnard. She up and ready to daven at Netz (and I didn't get it) I was busy holding a on to the liberal party politics at Columbia's Progessive Zionist Caucaus. We didn't speak much during those years, I think. She was involved in one area of the Jewish Zionist collegiate activities spectrum and I in another. Yet, honestly we were not so different at all. In effect, we did not see eye to eye, but we were both using our eyes and our minds. I think the red hair might have got in our way.

We graduated Barnard and she left America with my friends and made aliyah.
I got married and moved to Canada. I made aliyah to the Great White North for four years.

My friends would keep my updated on what was happening in RivkA's life, but I didn't have contact with her despite my frequent trips to Jerusalem to see my family.
I made yeridah back to the states ( but it wasn't home).

Then, her daughter and my niece grew and suddenly (it seemed like that to me) went to school together. My niece went to school with RivkA's kid. And my kids are growing up in America.
And she would teach my nieces how to swim at the pool. And my sister would tell me about RivkA and she was an amazing swim teacher (which I never got to see for myself). Who would have guessed that I could have been swimming with RivkA all those all those early morning swims at Barnard before shachrit when instead I swam with my Progressive Zionist buddy?

Wow. This really is one tiny, tiny Jewish world, I thought, by the time our paths had been crossing for 20 years. It is closer to 25 right now. Amazing.

So I had my four children and she hers (three, I think--pardon me, I really know about the one who is my nieces' age and the one who is best friend's with Shaiya's son--Shaiya was among those that made aliyah when I didn't). Shaiya's son's best friend.
Now really isn't that something? He was in the Progressive Zionist Caucus.

She got cancer, Debbie told me, and I got divorced after 15 years of marriage.
I moved my family back to Philadelphia and finally returned two summers ago for a vacation on my own to Jerusalem.

I made plans to meet her. I wanted to see RivkA, the plans didn't work out. She was elsewhere. She was tired. It didn't happen. Fatefully we said we hoped we could do it next time I came back. Sad.

I did see all those people who had made aliyah when I didn't and many told me about RivkA. I saw Alexis, Lisa, Charlie, Debbie, Josh, Jessica, and even Shaiya. And most of them knew RivkA. Many many people knew RivkA. If you met her you couldn't forget her. Memorable.

And since my sister told me about her blog I have been reading that blog, everyday. religiously.
Just as I have her in prayers daily, I have been praying for her strength and a miracle. A real miracle.
I cheered when reached her milestone of being in Israel longer than in America.
I don't think I'll live to see that milestone. I 'm not there yet and this RivkA and I are 44 years old.

I also silently daily thank her for introducing me to the whole blog-o-sphere and many other blogs that I read. THis has added much to my life. Thank you.
I also started a this blog and she was very encouraging. Thank you.

I have known her for a long time. We shared much in parallel experiences. I am so sorry we never got together that summer.

I was hoping she would be there at the airport when I finally make aliyah.
My youngest (Angel Baby) has 8 more years until she finishes high school.
That is what I am planning to do after her graduation.
I hope she comes with me.
If I am lucky, maybe Nefesh B'Nefesh will still be around...

I think that RivkA might not meet me at the airport.
I will see her when I get there.
She is everywhere in Israel.
But right now, I hope she is not in pain.
She suffered a lot of pain. No pain, RivkA.
Strength and courage from all those strong heartfelt beliefs of yours.

And now I am saying Tehilim because that is what I can do.
RivkA bat Teirtzel, you are in my thoughts.

The end of summer exploits of Hamilton, the cat

On Sunday night as I typed (studied math actually) on the computer I heard "chirp". "How strange," I thought, "Now just how could I have a bird chirping in here and the air conditioning was on".

So I reluctantly removed my tuchus from the chair and went to see (what I could see--just like that famous bear who went over the mountain). No singing please.
Lo and behold mid math problem (mine, not the bird's) some forlorn small bird had come to roost, on of all places, my living room window sill (obviously not the one with the air conditioning unit below it (like some bird could really tolerate that farshtunkena noise).
Poised to explore and torment there was she was, the ever ferocious Hamilton, my (add your own adjective, here) cat attempting to paw the bird through the closed glass window and screen and so scaring the bird into a shutter. Hamilton sneezed and pawed and meowed and I called my mother and the wildlife rehabilitation people. The bird cowered in the corner of the sill and the window. I watched. In case you did not know, PA wildlife rehabilitators do not take or return after hours calls.
So after dark, when my mother tired of looking at the bird and it became too dark to see it I finally lowered the shade and protected the bird from Hamilton's gaze. Of course, that did not deter her from trying and prying to get through the blinds. She continued to jump up on the window sill and then off and then up again and sneeze, image what a nose full of bird smell could do to the unpracticed olfactory lobes of an indoor cat?

After some time (and viewing Mad Men) I called it a night.
Upon awaking in the morning, I checked the sill only to find bird poop (a metaphor for something, no doubt) Hamilton lay about the floor seemingly not having any recall of the prior evening's excitement.
When mother called I informed her that the bird had flown the sill -- you were expecting maybe, the coop?
She told me to be sure and check the area underneath the sill and I told her would later in day (more algebra awaited).
When I did check I only saw a feather on the grass beneath the ledge which I took as a good sign, at the time.
Alas, a day later as I walked the length of the driveway the flattened bird lay amidst the drive way parking spaces.

WORD OF CAUTION: Neither this ending nor the story yet to come should be taken as metaphors.

So today (THURSDAY) I began to clean the childrens' rooms, they have been away all summer and I have been pretending those rooms do not exist. It went pretty well until today. I began in the lair of eldest (my boy/man, soon to be off for the trimester in Israel)hoping it would be an easier clean and tidy than in the beauty saloon (that by the way is NOT a typo). He has inherited, unbeknownst -yet- to him a new book shelf and so I was eager to dedust (you cannot even begin to imagine) and load up those shelves with school work and papers for him to sort through and throw out. Right now, I am sending up a silent prayer: please Hashem, that must happen before he leaves for Israel. So I cleaned. I dusted, I hate to dust, and there was a powerful amount of dust there. And then I knew I would have to remove the linens and do a load of laundry and remake the bed (I am so loathe to tell you how much I paid a therapist this morning to tell me that I did not have to do this, I just will not--you can figure it out on your own).
Guess which of my favorite pets had used the bed for the litter box?

Do you think she is mad at me or him?
It is UNKNOWN to me how long this has been there.
It wasn't so fresh, if you get my drift.

You can just guess how eager I am to clean the beauty saloon now.
Did I mention that I have a LOAD of math to do?

Off I go...

Chiconteague, VA

Last Friday I drove down to Silver Spring, Md. to spend Shabbat with my dear friends. I had not seen them in a number of years. They are thoughtful people, I mean they have lots of thoughts and it is a pleasure to talk with them in addition to the fact that they are very kind. One is an academic, and the other is embarking on a new career direction having begun grad school this summer. She is a warm, funny, honest person and with whom I have always enjoyed spending time. She cooked up a storm. There was home made delicious chicken soup, home made challah, 2 kinds of delicious chicken, roasted broccoli and home made cake. I so enjoyed getting to see their children. It is amazing how children grow up so much when you do not see them.
She and I talked until bedtime Friday night and then through Shabbat morning (instead of shul). Then after lunch and my nap, we talked more through the end of Shabbat.
Sunday around noon I left and drove to the Island of Chiconteague in Virginia.
I was accompanied on the 3 + hour ride by a crime novel on cd. I never actually read these. When read to me on cd they make great traveling companions and do not interrupt or require rest stops, ever.
The scenery was beautiful. Who knew there was so much water and lush greenery in Maryland and Virginia?
Not I, that 's for sure...

I arrived in the later afternoon at Miss Molly's Bed and Breakfast . There I unloaded my fresh produce into the communal fridge on the screened in veranda and made my way up the Victorian stair case to the Captain Jack Quarters (really a small room with a queen sized bed and feather pillow top and quite adequate for my needs). Unfortunately the room did not come with it's own Captain Jack. Such is the life of the single mom vacationer. My bathroom was in the hall (but all my own, again, no Jack). I unloaded, showered and contemplated my options. I decided it was best to get my lay of the land so I took a drive through Chiconteague making sure to remember where the main thoroughfares were and then over the Island of Assateague (where the ponies live). I followed the inn keepers instructions, my favorite left turn was onto Chicken City Road. That's some name, huh?
I saw no chickens but they did have some ponies in pens and they were lovely there (and tame, enough). So as I drove to the National Park on Assateague I saw the wild ponies grazing in the marsh and it was a sight, beautiful animals. I have to repeat, along side the road there were wild ponies grazing. I drove on to the Atlantic Ocean at the end of the Island. I sat on the beach for quite a while and caught a magnificent pink/orange sunset on the opposite side of the Atlantic's crashing waves. This is a mental picture. Splendid and fantastic are about the only words I can use to describe it. I returned to Chiconteague noting every single solitary tourist trap in which I might want to sell my soul before I left the Island. For dinner, I opted for tuna (cans I had brought with me) and my mixed greens salad for dinner with strawberries for dessert on the veranda, partaking of the B & B water cooler for an aperitif. I went up to my room and connected online to the world with my new lap top. After reading more of my book, South of Broad by Pat Conroy. I slept well on the feather down and awoke to my favorite morning smell, brewed coffee.

For my first day's mission I booked myself on a pontoon boat tour of the Island waterways to see the local water fowl and of course, the ponies (I was not alone, as the captain has a "six pack license and he tour with 6 passengers). Coated with mosquito repellent and sun screen, I spent two hours on the "Spider Explorer" and enjoyed the beautiful weather and saw many long necked snowy egrets, a majestic blue heron, and the iconic ponies. Captain Spider (as he known) gave a knowledgeable tour of geography, history, and industry (clamming, crabbing and oyster rearing, don'tcha know). Captain Spider even had lots of cold bottled water for us. Yearly, on the last Wednesday in July the town population doubles to watch the ponies swim across from Assateague to Chiconteague. Their arrival and subsequent sale benefit to the Chiconteague Fire Company which this year raised less than in the past since it has been difficult financially.
An exciting related tangent: Miss Molly's Inn does not raise their rates for the Pony Swim event booking but they and another local B & B have several celebratory additions at that time. Captain Spider books 2 years in advance to watch the ponies swim (leaving at 5 AM to get a good spot). This is a once in a life time event and I hope I can do it in the future...

After that fun filled adventure I went to the Post Office and mailed off post cards to my children--hoping they arrive before camp ends next week. Then I returned to my first love (the ocean). Equipped with the B & B beach towel, their beach chair /knap sack combo, cool water, the omnipresent Diet Coke and my novel I made a perfect afternoon of it. The sun was hot; the water was cold; the air was ocean breezy; I was in my own personal heaven. Did I say splendid and revelatory, yet? I stayed as long as I possibly could before dark. When I prepared to depart I walked along the Tom's Cove boardwalk through the marsh opposite the ocean beach. There I learned Assateague came from an Indian word and that the indigenous people of the area had a ritual of burying they dead's bones in ossuaries. I also learned a bit about how marsh grass roots go deep and hold in place to feed many organisms dependent upon it for life.
Reluctantly, I returned to the B & B, showered and removed the sand.
Then I made my way through the maze of retail duck decoys, bookstores, t-shirts, pony printed towels, lighthouse snow globe, nicknacks, and chachkas. I bought some useful souvenirs for my children such as a copy of Misty of Chiconteague 1947 Marguerite Henry novel which was written while she was staying at Miss Molly's. I also stocked up on 2 non PVC water bottles, 2 hot mugs emblazoned with Chiconteague and pony silhouette, and a spork for each of us (a rather adorable spoon knife, fork utensil so we do not have to take disposable ones to school anymore). After I enjoyed my dinner of a wrap with lettuce, tomato, avocado, humus, and sprouts and contemplated if I could encourage children (principally those who live with me) as an adequate meal for a school lunch maybe I will need to include hearts of palm, returned to the Captain Jack Quarters, my laptop and novel. I finished that book and am on to another...
On my final day I made it to the beach before the 11 AM B & B check out. I left vowing to return and headed home via a shorter route then I had when coming through Silver Spring, well it would have been shorter except I detoured to a favorite discount store in Delaware, since there was no tax and I am my mother's daughter.

Such is the tale of the 2010 Chiconteague vacation of this IMA -- sans les quatre enfants 24/7

Declaration of Internet Independence

My dear cousin queried me as to what I knew about a certain commentator assuming I would know (being that I am so up on the WORLD--meaning I rarely leave the chair located in front of my computer, no doubt). Now this was not some New York Times op ed person such as our beloved alumna, Anna Quindlen (Barnard '74), or your run of the mill Frank Rich. I had never before heard of this individual (who as it happens espouses hatred of Jews and denies the anti-semetism exists in inflammatory prose) a google search enlightened me to the above and confirmed that she has adequately proved herself to be a certifiable "wack job" (pardon my language). She can be found in good company on website which is home to other formidable "you-know-whats". That is not a term I really use and do not do so here lightly. So I advised my dear cousin who like me, is walking around without a lobotomy scar, that despite the beauty of that well thought out and UNDENIABLY VALUABLE free speech amendment (and here a mere day after the celebration of this usually great country's Independence) we would do well to invest our time in cyber space more wisely.
So I am declaring Independence from opening, reading and all round "hitting" these vocal vipers of the internet. My mother always taught us: "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything". Or am I paraphrasing?
And me why have I got musing minutes to issue my own personal Declarations of Internet Independence?
It is the 5th of July, otherwise known as the hang over holiday to those who did not get enough warm beer and cold burgers yesterday ( I had none,thank you very much)and although I was gifted with a fax/copier earlier in the day (many thanks to Lovable Expert, spouse of my Biscuit), I am alone (not that I am ever really alone, thanks to the omnipresence of the furry, ferocious, feral feline (other more foul "F" adjectives omitted for polite company as I have already stepped over the line). Currently "Not Lynx" is currently believed to be lounging on the dining room table as I type.

Where are the other constant companions of my life, you ask? Go on, ask.
Ok, I'll tell you now...CAMP! Beautiful, in the woods for 7 weeks, over-night camp, all of my children are there! Glorious, wonderful, not always appropriate, usually dirty and rarely nutritionally wise, summer camp has provided me with respite from constant 24/7 parenting. I have recently honed the cherished ability to sleep when I want to, wake up when I want to, eat when and what I want. It is no wonder that same Lovable Expert remarked how rested I looked. On my behalf, please note that I did clean the kitchen and entry way today. From the minimal communication I receive, really that is an whole other post, I understand my children are doing their very best to enjoy the heck out of their summer. Hot as it was yesterday, Angel Baby was apparently felled a bit by the heat in combination with lack of sleep. It seems she was back to herself by evening. On the flip side of the ordinal spectrum, my Boy/Man was reported seen soaking unsuspecting passersby, campers or counselors on boys campus, using the "Super Soaker", a machine gun of water pistols, to relieve or alarm( that remains unknown to me). Certainly of no concern to that apple of my eye, the fact that said weapon might just be illegal (really?) in the camp (I bought it unknowingly, for him).


I haven't been able to write about what has been going on my life for quite some time. Call it blog-block (it is doubtful that I am the first person to come up with that term).

I have, however, just recently spent quite a bit of time compiling a play list of songs of strength and support for a dear friend of mine. I think perhaps, we can all probably benefit from this list list I thought I might share.
My top 10 songs (ok 15 if you include the Official Country Bonus tracks)in the HIZUK (Hebrew for strength) Department!
I am not providing link because I don't know the legalities here.
I must emphasize I do not endorse any foul language herein nor do I condone or recommend that you watch any inappropriate videos of these songs and PLEASE BE extra vigilant disregard ALL non pertinent lyrics!

I do recommend the the choruses!

Songs of strength and support

1. All American Rejects: Move along!
2. CHER: Strong Enough
3. Elton John: I'm still standing!
4. Animal Liberation Orchestra: BBQ
5. Green Day:Good Riddance:Time of your life.
6. Jim Croce: I've got a name.

Of course:
7. Gloria Gaynor: I will survive.

Somewhat more angry ones:
8. All American Rejects: Gives you hell!
9. Alanis Morissette: You oughta know

Just plain old:
10. Jonathon Edwards: Sunshine

11.Jaron and the Long Road: I pray for you!
12. Jo Dee Messina: My Give a Damn's Busted!
13. Keith Urban: You'll think of me!
14. Lee ann Womack: I hope you Dance!
15. Miley Cyrus:The Climb.

I hope you can feel the strength and support.

Happy Divorce Day

Today is Pajama Day at my children's school.
While I, for one, will not spend one cent on buying pajamas for poor children. Pardon me, my charity donations are personal and go where I designate them.
This is a school project, at the outset of Spring when all stores have switched their wardrobe selection to cruise wear, if not summer camp must haves, parents, who are already paying gobs of tuition, are now asked to scour stores looking for warm winter pajamas to donate to the needy.
Do your children actually still wear pajamas? Mine most frequently wear sweat shirts and sweat pants, or other outerwear.
Honestly, I am not sure how Pajama Day got perverted in to a charity drive, I would like to take this opportunity to address a more serious issue in our home and school community: Diversity.
I mean really isn't that truly a concern parents have sending their child to an insular Jewish Day School, that it is lacking in diversity?
No, I am not suggesting mandatory viewing of the Australian aboriginally dressed Russian Olympic Ice Skating Competition (I'll just bet that is where you thought this was going).
I am advocating Divorce Day!
I think there is not enough divorce awareness out there in the school.
Do we have a Divorcee Melava Malka? No.
What about a Divorce color war? Believe me these teams practically self divide, really I think it is a no brainer.

Our children are missing diversity awareness.
These privileged children are not exposed to the divorce enough.
They understand that some parents can not and are not buying pajamas for the needy, they are also not buying $16 "Sugarlips" stretchy sleeveless undershirts for their third grader.
How about awareness that there are actually mom's out there doing it all--from having the gutter replaced to sending in the financial aid forms (and who are not going to double the deposit because there are 2 sets of information to be processed for one child of divorced parents).
Perhaps the PTA could make the divorced mom's breakfast--forget the pancakes--we'll take extra strong coffee, and lactose free milk (the fact that our digestion is shot should come as no great surprise to anyone here) and chocolate straight up.
Those divorced dads sit in a large ball pit (equipped with baseballs, if you please) and we could model this activity after that famous Purim carnival booth, something like hit the clown with the wet sponge, only with the baseballs?
Another initiative I would like to recommend to the PTA is to reconfigure the development mailing list. It is simple and the figures remain the same. Just replace all divorced moms with the dad's mailing. It is highly likely they will not have read the first mailing anyway so better to send two. Really this is undoubtedly a more effective development strategy.
On Divorce Day, after hearing Hatikva and the Pledge of Allegiance the PA system should play the appropriate Chrisitne Lavin song "Happy Divorce Day": "though it's with sadness we arrived here, we leave with lighter hearts, knowing some of us are better off when we are apart".
The rest of the lyrics are linked here: http://www.christinelavin.com/index.php?page=songs&display=226&category=Shining_My_Flashlight_on_the_Moon

Lastly, I want to propose a "More than Mother's Day Celebration". It is the mother who sometimes calls every grandparent, neighbor, cousin, friend or tangential acquaintance to get a copy of the homework, bring the Oreos on October the 13th, borrow the last minute costume, pick up a child, or take a child to the doctor. That would be the same single mother whose ends rarely meet, those are the same split ends of her own hair that are yet to be ripped out of her head in frustration, cleans the toilets, makes the decisions, and doctor's appointments (and puts them on the Google calendar) routinely forgoes sleep, makes and enforces rules and is often treated to the thankless thoughtlessness, and the needless nasties in heaping helpings.

End of Rant.


Why are there so many forms to be filled out? School registration forms plagued me this morning with their impending deadlines for next fall, yet. Then, of course, there are some extra curricular activity forms, and some bills (which if not paid online, are forms that require checks which most forms for that matter).
It must be because my children are in private school. Are there less forms to fill out for public school, because after all it is not like one would request financial aid and since they were registered for last year they know they are coming the next year, right?
I guess if you have a special needs child you still fill out a lot of forms in the public school system. And how is that at all fair?
I bet when I get to be a teacher in the public school system I am going to have to fill out a lot of forms.
My parents sent four daughters to school from kindergarten to 12th grade without submitting their tax returns in February. People in Israel do not submit their tax returns to send their children to school. I copied my tax forms this morning on my home computer scanner. I cannot say I enjoyed the experience. I will be doing this every year until 2019.
My far away phone friend said that she thought they should be able to be reproduced on line already since we keep having to write the family address over and over again, by hand. She is right and she pointed out that it wastes more paper--which we all know we are trying to get away from.

As an tree hugging kind of aside, we started recycling boxes in our new apartment and I think this is very good--even if it takes up space until it is removed. Let's be very clear, the actuality of efficiency remains unsubstantiated but since I have no legislative power to truly improve the system I am resigned to be being a compliant consumer. Therefore, perhaps it is really only good because it makes me feel good.
It does and it sure beat the forms.
Now we are here in our new digs for two weeks and two days. The new apartment is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself even if the Mother did remark that it seems I don't have time to hang a thing on the walls at the moment.
I just wish there were about 5 more hours in a day and that I didn't need to sleep.
Now back to the forms more of which need to be filled out.


It is the fourteenth of January and I am still running into people who are wishing me a Happy New Year.
I think it will be, and better than last year.
I am still removing ash from the fire we endured at Hanukkah. The faint smell still hits my nostrils each time I return to the apartment. The walls have been painted and the floor repaired. We mourn the loss of our favorite sofa chair silently. I am reordering most everything because we will be moving next month to a larger apartment in the same building.
I have already spied my new dishwasher in it's carton the basement. My mother asked me quizzically how I knew it was mine. "I just knew, whose else could it be?" I asked. Now we are all just waiting on the current tenants of 214 to move out. I can barely contain myself to think of the washer and dryer that will be installed in our own apartment. This is a surprise for the children. I hope it will be a cost saving measure.
Too exhausted to continue tonight.