Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Outrageous Genie in a Toxic Bottle Hits Me Baby One More Time

So, I haven't blogged for a few days, because the thing I really want to blog about is the disengagement, and my feelings/thoughts/opinions, and how confused and worried and upset I am on a lot of different levels, and yet still somewhat hopeful, how I'm so glad that Gesher has set up a tent near the central bus station in Jerusalem as a safe place to come and talk about it all this week starting each day at 10 am, and how as soon as I have a couple of hours free I'll go there to meet people and try to figure out what I think, and oh, by the way, for those of you in Israel, please be aware that tomorrow (Wednesday) there are going to be more protests against the disengagement all over the country, including people blocking roads and highways, so don't plan on going anywhere important in a hurry. I heard about it on the radio today.

In other words, I want to write something coherent and meaningful about a very serious issue, but I'm so mishkabobbled about it that I don't know where to start. Maybe soon.

But what I can tell you is that today I went to Tel Aviv to interview someone about whom I'm writing a profile, and it was a very nice lunch interview, but ran an hour longer than I expected. (By the way, it was in Tel Aviv today that I saw, for the first time ever, a poster supporting the disengagement. It said "Sharon, the country is with you." Across the street were two posters that said "Disengagement rewards terror" and "We support Gush Katif." I did see some orange ribbons, but nowhere near what we've got in Jerusalem. More about that another time.) I took a bus home, and on the way I suddenly knew that I am definitely going to be sick. The food at lunch had been a little too greasy for me, and the air conditioner in the bus wasn't working properly, so it was hot, and I could feel my seat vibrating hard from the effort the bus was making to cool itself, and of course the entrance to Jerusalem is very hilly and curvy. Motion sickness, people. Bad.

When I got off the bus, I sat on a bench to try to relax and not throw up, but some dude started smoking right in my face, so I got up again.

I won't bore you with all the tiny incremental ways that I got myself to feel better over the next few minutes. The point is, I was tired, dehydrated, nauseated, and stressed both about the amount of work I have to do and the disengagement, and not incidentally how much I want to write about the disengagement but don't know what to say. So what did I do? I did what any normal person would do. I went into Tower Records and bought a copy of Christina Aguilera's first album, and a Britney Spears greatest hits collection.

Because, you know, no matter where you live in the world, there is no problem that some bubble gum pop music can't solve.

PS I also bought an Ofra Haza album. I hope that redeems me.

PPS Will the person who has my double-CD "Best of Billie Holiday" album please return it to me?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Chayyei Sarah's musical interlude, brought to you by Eurovision and the 1970's

I've been meaning to share these for a while, and now the time has come. No special reason, just "because."

1. Via Shimmy, who found it via Avraham Bronstein, here is a video of the 1979 performance by the German group Dschinghis Khan at Eurovision, which was held that year in Jerusalem. Something tells me that Mordechai Ben David's song "Yidden" may have been "inspired" (lifted) by this performance.

As Shimmy says, brace yourselves.

2. I got an email a few weeks ago alerting me to this very useful site (for those who can read Hebrew), which provides the lyrics to all those Israeli songs they sing at the Independence Day sing-alongs, which we immigrants don't know. The songs are split into categories such as "holidays," "wars," "songs from movies," "children's songs," etc. And here, they have the lyrics to every Israeli entrance at Eurovision from 1973-2005, and video clips for almost every one (links for the videos are in the paretheses, after the name of the artist).

My personal favorites are "Kahn" (1991), "Chai" (1983 - poor Ofra Haza. She was so beautiful), and "Hora" (1982). But if you do nothing else, you must - must I say - get out your platform shoes and click on "Abanibi" (1978). It's groovy, man.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

New website to help you find "the one that got away"

Via a forwarded e-mail from my friend Yael, here is a new site called Almost Met Jew, where you can find

a) the "one that got away" - you know, the cute girl who was sitting across from you on the 9 train, lookin' good in her Barnard sweatshirt and long jean skirt, but you didn't get up the nerve to talk to her, and then she got off at 59th street and you are still thinking about her three days later . . . or whatever

b) the long lost friend, members of your extended family tree, or whatever

I am totally going to use this to try to find the person who was my best friend in elementary school, until she moved to Texas and disappeared from my radar. I'm so curious to know what has become of her. I've tried Googling, superpages, calling people whose names sound like what I think was her father's name, etc, but no luck so far.

God, how romantic do you think it would be to read a "one that got away" posting and realize they are talking about you? That would make my day, totally.

Of course, the whole thing flies in the face of the "shidduch" system -- after all, the site is based on the idea that people will want to pursue relationships on the basis of what the other person looked like from afar (oh! the superficiality! horrors!) but given the trouble so many people are having, meeting their "basherts," it can't hurt to bring a little romance back into "the system" (or, rather, utter lack thereof).

It will be interesting to see, over time, how many people get responses from their "almost met" dreamboats, and of those who get responses, how many end up in long-term relationships. It seems to me that a lot of people, women especially, might be a bit off-put by the idea of responding to some anonymous guy who could, after all, be an axe murderer. And, very often the "one that got away" turns out to be a jerk, or a flake, or just a little bit strange.

But, you never know. The site offers a way to find out for sure, so that you don't spend the rest of your life kicking yourself for not getting someone's phone number when you had the chance.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Craig-the-Awesome would like your input as to what to name his new company.

In my own news, there is no news. I feel very sluggish and bored today, on the verge of cranky. I'm so not excited about Shavuot, I have to admit. I mean, I'm excited about visiting Ari and Sarah Beth in Hashmonaim, but the whole "pressure to stay up all night" and "eating dairy even though the connection to the holiday is tenuous at best" stuff just doesn't do it for me. Actually, what doesn't do it for me is how it's a no-win situation. If I try to stay up all night, I'll be exhausted and bored. And if I do the smart thing and just admit that this isn't for me, and go to bed, then I'll feel like a crappy Jew.

So, now that I'm thinking about it, I think I'll just try to focus on being grateful that we have the Torah- turn it into a kind of Thanksgiving, only with blintzes instead of turkey- do my best to learn something, go to bed, and not feel guilty.

And now that I'm thinking about it even more, I'm realizing that the reason I'm not excited about Shavuot is that it's bringing up all my feelings of guilt over the fact that I really don't spend enough time learning Torah in general. If I can't bring myself, for various lame excuses, to go to shiurim or have a chavruta or whatever the rest of the year, then why would I suddenly be thrilled by the idea of staying up all night to do it now? It's like telling someone who never works out to go run a marathon.

Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt Jewish guilt

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Important Milestone

With great thanks to Hashem, and to certain family members who have been extremely generous to me, I'm happy to announce that as of yesterday, I am officially out of debt.

*Zero balance on my credit card
*Bank loan paid off
*All small debts to friends, such as the 70 NIS I owed my friend Shuli from the last time we went to dinner and a movie together, taken care of.

OK, there is one loan-from-a-friend still on the table, but that's because her wallet was stolen last week, including the check I'd given her to pay back the money she'd once loaned me. I just haven't seen her yet to give her a replacement check. But besides that, I'm completely in the black now. In fact, there are several "entities" out there who owe ME money, including several clients and the government of the State of Israel.

Chayyei Sarah is actually worth something now! I mean, I was worth something before, but . . . well, you know what I meant.

It's a great feeling to be able to start thinking about saving up money for things I really want. I have a lot of gratitude to Hashem, who in certain ways has made it seem like money falls from the sky; and to my family and one particular friend, who have been very generous to me - without them it would have taken me a few more years to get to this point; and to myself, for aggressively taking care of the situation, staying on top of my clients' accounts with me (most freelance writers are not good at the business side), and not making (too many) ridiculous purchases which would have put me further away from my goal.

What a relief!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Pack your bags, Moshiach is coming

Sing praises to the Lord!

A man who said he would call . . . called.

Unfortunately, I did not get out my cell phone on time to actually talk to him, and he did not leave a message.

But his phone number is recorded right there in my "missed calls" list, proof positive that an unmarried human male actually picked up a telephone and dialed a woman's number.

It's a miiiiiiiiraaaaclllllllle!

I think I need to lie down. The shock, the shock.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Aliyah of Book Six

The sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is scheduled for release on July 16. It is possible to order the book now, say at at Amazon.com, and have it delivered on the very day.

Is there anyone out there coming from America to Jerusalem soon after July 16? To whom I could have the book delivered? And who would then bring it to Jerusalem for me?

I cannot put into words how happy you would make me. I'd even allow you to read the book when you get it at your house.

PS Kudos to the first reader who correctly identifies the name of the magical bowl illustrated on the cover AND its purpose(s)/ use(s).
Yom Yerushalayim

I have an almost fierce love for Jerusalem. I feel it most particularly when I have to leave the city, to visit friends in the suburbs or attend to business needs in Tel Aviv or Haifa. As the bus winds through the hills on the city's outskirts, I look at all the neighborhoods - both Jewish and Arab- at the trees and rocks and shrubs and cars, at the homes and office buildings covered in golden Jerusalem stone, and I feel that at last I have found something - my right to live here- for which I'd indeed be willing to sacrifice my life if I had to. Every day, when I admire the flowers adorning my shortcuts to Emek Refaim Street or take a bus to City Center, I want so much for all the world to come to visit me here, anyone and everyone, so I can show off the beautiful, old, tattered, war-torn, bustling, hopeful, intense, impoverished, holy, swirling, changing city in which I live.

Someone once told me that to Israelis in the rest of the country, Jerusalem is not really "part" of Israel, in terms of the mentality of the country. The character of Jerusalem is so different from that of Tel Aviv, Nahariya, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon . . . it's as if there is Israel, and then there is Jerusalem. I was startled by this. To me, having never lived anywhere in Israel but Jerusalem, the capital is the most intense expression of Israeliness there is, and everything else is the sort-of, the watered-down version, the "almost." I love the whole country, particularly the Galil, but there is a reason that when someone moves from, say, Ramat Gan to Jerusalem, that person is said to have "made Aliyah." Jerusalem is that much closer to the heavens. As the song says, "You are the sun, Jerusalem." That is why we so often get burned.

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the 1967 unification of East and West Jerusalem. Today we celebrate the ability of someone like me to take a 45-minute walk to the Western Wall, through the Old City, with no hassle. There are parades and fireworks and special events.

I'm not attending any of those events. I did not plan anything special for today. I have an assignment due. I went to the bank and spoke in Hebrew with the clerk about exchanging my dollars into shekels; I walked around a bit to take photos of the various pretty recycling bins to post on my blog at a later date; I went into a grocery store, where the owner's little granddaughter was sitting behind the counter, eating a popsicle and begging in Hebrew to go to the park to play. Later I'll sit in Cafe Hillel, the site of a horrible terrorist attack last summer, and work on my assignment while eating a salad made of Israeli-grown vegetables.

Just another day in Jerusalem. And that is special enough for me. Today, and every day.

I feel I owe my readers an apology. I realize that lately my blog posts have been sort of skimpy. Well, the PMS post (2 down) brings up some interesting issues, but I know that most of you don't come here for things like the Ugly Cake story.

I won't get into the reasons that my blogging has been sort of "blah" the last couple of months. Suffice to say that I have other things going on right now, most of which are too boring to write about and some of which are too hard to write about, and when my life is "blah," my blog gets "blah." In the last two months my readership has decreased by half, and I don't blame people for walking away. (I'm also not taking it personally. I'm not in the blogging "business" for the attention. It started as a way to help family and friends in the US keep tabs on my life, and it will remain so. The fact that so many others seem to enjoy reading my blog is just icing on the cake, a pleasant and very gratifying surprise.)

So, first of all, thanks so much to the other half of you, the ones who keep coming back for more Chayyei Sarah. I really appreciate your devotion to my site! Thank you so much.

And second, one thing that I am proud of is that I'm not one of those people who quit blogging when it got tough. I think blogging -- at least, my blogging-- may just go in waves, and that eventually (hopefully soon), I'll get back into the "groove" and start doing, and therefore writing about, more exciting things. Maybe, lihavdil, it's like prayer: We're supposed to do it every day, even when we're not inspired, so that when we are inspired we'll have a framework for that inspiration. Good writers always try to write every day, to write something, whether it ends up published or not. So, to those of you who are hanging in there: I hope to reward you soon with more inspiring reading fare. Meanwhile, keep checking in as often as you can. You never know when I might surprise you with something juicy.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Someone actually did it!

For years and years, I've heard so many women say "my big dream is to open a women's center, where women can get care for the body, mind, and spirit, all in one place." It's really amazing, actually, how many people have that same dream, especially in Jerusalem.

Well, someone finally realized her dream. Here it is, a new center in the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem that offers osteopathic and naturopathic care, obgyns, ultrasounds, exercise classes, and all sorts of support groups, all under one roof. There's babysitting, "Mommy and me"-type groups, and special programs for pregnant ladies.

What is missing? I've heard women say that in their dreams, the center includes a mikva and shiurim. Who knows, perhaps the Mercaz Nashim will grow to include those, too. One can dream.
Losing Control is not "OK"

On Friday, I was blog-hopping, and followed a link to some J-blog post, at a blog I'd never read before. Unfortunately I cannot now remember what blog it was or where I found the link - please help me out if you recognize the topic. Basically, I was thinking about it all weekend, because I found the reactions to the post a bit disturbing.

Basically, the author of the blog wrote a post sort of musing/complaining/ranting about his wife's, eh, tendency toward irrationality during the days before her period. The author recounted two conversations he's had with her while she had PMS, as examples, and indeed it seemed, from the dialogue as he wrote it, that his wife does in fact become, shall we say, difficult. Nothing he says matters, no reasoning can get her to calm down, suddenly everything he does is wrong, etc etc.

While reading the dialogue from these two arguments they had, I had two reactions: 1) This woman needs to eat some chocolate and take a deep breath and 2) her husband, the author, is handling it exactly the wrong way. PMS is an evil thing, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the words "You are only saying that because you have PMS" should never, but never, cross a man's lips. He keeps trying to reason with her when ANY woman can tell him that the best strategy for him is just to say "I'm going to work now. Love you. See you later." (To men whose wives tend to become weepy rather than angry, I recommend, again, against trying to reason. Instead say "Yes, life is awful. Here, have a tissue. And some chocolate.")

Many, many women left comments to that post. There were two themes to the comments. One was "You are handling this all wrong." The other was "Gee, you get off lucky, when I have PMS, I throw books at my husband." The atmosphere in the comments section was somewhat jovial, as if PMS is not only natural but also slightly amusing, and that this blogger is just going to have to take up a hobby in his garage so he'll have a place to escape to once a month.

Not one person, as far as I saw, said "some time during the month when your wife is her usual wonderful self, sit down with her and ask her to get help, because her PMS makes her say hurtful things to you and it's not good for your marriage." No one said "try to encourage your wife to talk to her doctor about this."

Now, I'm not married, but I can imagine that two people who live in close proximity to each other for many years get on each others nerves, big time. And I can imagine that every so often, people get really impatient and say rude things to each other because if-that-other-person's-bad-habits-pop-up-one-more-time-I'm-just-going-to-go-out-of-my-mind. People get angry; it's part of life and, I'm told, part of being married. I also know very well what it's like to be at the mercy of one's hormones, and can testify that sometimes, staying rational and keeping things in perspective is very, very hard. There have been times that I myself have realized, in the middle of weeping over some personal tragedy that I'm afraid will happen some time in the distant future, that "wait a second. What's today's date? Oh. I'll feel better next week. OK. That makes me feel a little better now. Where's that chocolate?"

But no matter how biological the impetus may be, "flying off the handle" or "biting your husband's head off" or telling him he "can't do anything right" or throwing books at him is not OK. If a neighbor was suddenly, out of nowhere, short with my husband and yelled "what is wrong with you?" at him, I'd conclude that this person is -- excuse my French-- la Bitch. If a stranger on the street threw books at my husband, I'd haul her hormonal ass into a police station faster than you can say "assault." When a man is irrational and insulting to his wife, we say he's a terrible husband. So when a woman acts that way, why should it suddenly be "excusable" or "understandable" just because it's "that time of month"? Why shouldn't a man be able to expect that his otherwise kind, intelligent, compassionate wife learn to say, at least most of the time, "You know what? I'm in a really bad mood. This is not a good time to talk to me. I don't want take it out on you. Best to steer clear. I'm really sorry"?

That's what I would want my husband to say when he's in a foul temper. "I'm starving, and you know I turn into a bear when I'm hungry. Let's have dinner and then we'll talk about your meeting with the school principal" or "Today was the work day from hell, and I need 20 minutes to myself to calm down." I know that if that happens, I'll probably think "he needs 20 minutes? When do I get my 20 minutes?" But I think I'd rather forfeit my 20 minutes than have my spouse "bite my head off," the same way that I'd rather insist on my 20 minutes than lose control over myself and take out my foul mood on people I care about.

I remember once walking home with my (male) boss, who had invited me for dinner with his family (I was working for NCSY). The whole way home, we were talking about a very difficult work issue that was causing him a huge amount of stress. He was very, very worried about it. When we were walking up to his house, he suddenly stopped, took a few deep breaths, whispered "Daddy mode, Daddy mode" to himself several times, and then went into the house, where three kids immediately started cheering "Daddy's home!" and he swung each of them around in turn, giving them kisses. That man is my hero.

I know that whenever I get married, I should expect that sometimes my husband will do or say "stupid" things or take out his frustrations on me, because no one is perfect all the time. I know that spouses often have to allow for each other to be unreasonable. But that doesn't make it "acceptable." And if it happened a lot, like every day for a week, once a month, I'd ask him to figure out some way of calming down or go with me to a marriage counselor. I don't deserve to be talked to with anything but respect, and neither, I would imagine, do most of the husbands of the women commenting on that blog post.

The fact that women have overwhelmingly difficult hormonal ups-and-downs-and-all-arounds should not be an excuse not to work on our middot, our personal qualities. It just means that we have to overcome some things that men generally do not understand at all. But just because a man is there doesn't give his wife the "right," because of her hormones, to spew insults at him, the same way that I have no "right," as a single person, to insult my friends just because I'm in a foul mood.

To that blogger my message is: learn to steer clear. To his wife: Maybe your physician will be able to help you, and maybe not, but you owe it to yourself and your family to make an appointment and at least try. Or get some Miriam Adahan books. Or something.

And to the woman who throws books at her husband when she has PMS: Your children will never forget the image of you doing that. After some therapy they might forgive you, but they will never forget.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mazal tov!

To my dear old college friend, Roseanne Benjamin, and her husband, Daniel Modell, on the birth of a little boy, Asher Isaiah. This is their first baby. Congratulations, guys, and may you be blessed with some opportunities to sleep. Can't wait to meet little Asher the next time I find myself in New York.
Ugliest Wedding Cake Ever

OK, I so have no time to write this, but it's too awful not to share!

Via Manolo's Shoe Blog, I recently revisited this site, devoted to ugly bridesmaid dresses, to see if they'd posted anything new.

What I found was the Ugly Cake Story, which is so heartbreaking I'm going to repost the relevant photos here.

This is the cake that the bride wanted:

Now, this cake does not suit my personal style -- I tend more toward flowery or minimalist wedding cakes -- but I can fully appreciate that it is a perfectly nice-looking cake. It is not what I would choose, but it certainly is impressive, and I cannot blame any woman for bringing this photo to her baker and asking for a replica of this exact cake. Which is what the bride in question did.

Unfortunately, the baker in question was apparently something of a shikker, and this is the cake that actually ended up on display at the reception . . .

The cake they received:

Look at it. Look at it. It is the stuff of nightmares. I especially like how none of the lines are straight, not of the cake nor of the decorations, and the way the red stripe on the bottom layer has that ugly part where the ends overlap. The whole thing is so bad, I can't stop looking at it.

Now, if you want an excellent cake baked for you in Jerusalem, for any kind of party, visit the site of my dear friend Rachel Miskin, the most super-fantastic cake baker/decorator this side of the Tayelet! Rachel baked the cake for the bridal shower I threw for my friend Chava, and it was exquisite and delicious.