Thursday, March 16, 2017


Rusnning late
Hair a mess
Hasent eanten breakfsta
Stains on her dress

Shoes on the rwong feet
Lunch salpped together
Quicker than she thought
She could evre

Manage to complete
A tsak like that
Oh there she gsoes
Ms. Mally Mack

Cat'n spell a word
Tries hadr to rhyme
Ms. Mally Mack
Is just never on time

Slieds into her seat
A couple minutes after
Attendance was tken
And now theres laughter

Teacher shakes her head
With a  soryy sigh
Little Mally Mack
Began to cry

Shuffles her feet
Out the saem sdoor
Feels tired and hveay
Limbs so sore

Principle passes
In the hall onec more
"Oh sweet girl,
There's a solution I'm sure."

"Cat'n spell a word
Tries hadr to rhyme
I'm Ms. Mally Mack
Just never on time"

"Don’t cry, don’t fret"
Principle said
"There's hope for you,
Light ahead

"Some people are punctual
Accurate to a fault
Tick every box
Each I's got a dot

"But when it comes to passion
Spontaneity and ideas
We turn to you, Mally dear,
You're an inventor, it's just so clear!"

And that is how
Ms. Mally Mack
Recognized the function
In the disfunction

Good lcuk to you,
Mallys the world over
'cause when someone needs new soltuion
The world is your oyster

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guide on the Side

I'm going away. School has hardly begun and I am leaving my students for nearly two weeks. I cannot adequately articulate the nerve-wracking anxiety this situation creates. I can see a benefit though. Besides for the actual trip, the choice to leave my students has helped to crystallize for me the role of the teacher. 

In my quest to move from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide on the Side" I started to diminish the role of that guide in my own eyes. Sure, I belevied my classroom would be of greater use to my students if I was the guide on the side instead of dominating center-stage. Primarily because of a meme like this: 

Image result for show me i'll understand
Another similar idea was a graph I once saw about information retention. I'm making up the figures here, but the general gist was listening = 5%  retention and the percentage of retention climbed as the activities became more and more hands on. 

So a strong part of my intellectual mind agreed with the advantage of student involvement and student-led learning. I tried it out with PBLs, research projects, flipped classroom etc. But in the words of a great children's author, "something was wrong, something was missing."

Image result for sage on stage

My subconscious imago vision of a teacher was Sage on the Stage. Period. End of sentence. Though I kept providing learning opportunities that would flip the scene, inside it always felt wrong. "I'm the teacher!" my inner child whined, "The sage. I belong on the sage. Lecturing. Students should be passively sitting, dishes open, waiting to receive. They should arrive to class yearning to drink from the fountains of wisdom I possess."

Sheesh, that sounds egotistical! It wasn't anything I'd articulated. It wasn't anything I even understood! But I think that was my subconscious perspective. I just didn't know my role as "guide on the side". I think I went too extreme because my mentor started encouraging me to get back into lecture mode.

The answer, as always, is balance. 

I'm thinking that there is a time and place for everything. We've got a family catch-phrase, "everything in moderation". I'm envisioning a classroom which is structured activity after activity, with the teacher being the glue in between. During those 'glue-in'between' moments she gives mini-lectures and facilitates group discussions. (That's when Most importantly, though, when students are working on their various tasks and activities, she guides. She walks around, listening, observing. She comments judiciously. She views those little sessions as the most empowering form of learning.

Balancing the two extremes is a learning curve, really.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just Do It - The Case for Kabbolas Ol

I had some students who really did not feel comfortable with the idea of Kabbolas Ol. Their main questions were:
  1. What is the point of Just doing things - isn't It pointless if the actions are devoid of meaning?
  1. I don't like the idea of "fake it until you make it" - I'm not a hypocrite.

    So this is what I plan to answer them:
    (I'm going to make up a powerpoint to go along with it and link it here for download.)

Point #1: The Right Thing
What's the point of doing the right thing if I am not feeling it? Well, do manners matter? Picture a world where people acted only on instinct. That's a world full of narcissism. I have a guest, but I don’t feel like saying goodbye so I holler out a "see ya" from my comfortable couch. Kind of diminishes the relationship. That’s why I train myself to be polite. We teach children (and our inner child) to have self-control, to act in certain ways and develop polite mannerisms. We train ourselves so that we act correctly even when we are not feeling it.

Story: Fisherman caught the fish, "oh, wonderful the king loves fish" so the fish holds on. Moves its way through marketplace etc. until reaches the royal kitchen. Just as the king gives instructions to roast it, "you don't love fish, you love yourself!"

In order to have a healthy relationship, you must make space for the other. If I am always following my own wants and needs then I am loving myself, not loving the fish. To develop a relationship, I must take a step back and make space. It is not enough to love. I must demonstrate and develop respect. In terms of my baby, that means leaving him in a quiet space so he can sleep rather than smothering him with endless cuddles and attention. It's what he needs versus what I feel. Gotta make space for him to be him and have his needs met.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. We repair our relationship with Hashem. We've crowned Him as king on Rosh Hashana - that means accepting His will, even and especially when it conflicts with our own will. When we say Shema every day, we are saying that we are willing to give our lives for Hashem. We can make that choice every day, every minute. It's in the small daily decisions of how we act.

Point #2: Create Feelings
You asked, why should I act in certain pre-prescribed ways if I'm not feeling like it? Isn't that being a hypocrite? I don’t like the concept of "faking it" until I make it.

Here's the first answer: Neuroplasticity 

All my actions and speech create pathways in my brain. They impact the way I think and feel. If I do something positive, for instance, it creates a positive feeling in me.

One day after work, "How was your day?"
I felt ok, but I'd been in a kvetchy mood the previous few days, so it was hard to break out. So as all Jews do, I responded with a question, "Should I be positive or tell you as it really is?"
almost immediately I had a response for myself, "It really is positive! You're feeling better than this morning. Choose to frame your life through that lens!" but my mind wasn't quick enough and it was much easier to fall in the welcoming cacoon of the past week's misery.
"It's ok," came the kind-hearted reply, "You can say it as it is"
I could have chosen to reframe my day. But I took the shloomp way and started with what went wrong. As I whined, I could literally feel myself darkening inside.
It took days to recover.
We can create feelings in ourselves. Tap into the goodness, small as it is and let that goodness overtake you.

Our hearts follow our deeds.
אחר הפעולות נמשכים הלבבות
-ספר החינוך

Story: There was a girl (uni student) who was mean. She didn’t like that part of herself. She sought expert psychologists to advise her. They tried helping her tap into her subconscious, reconnect with moments from her childhood. They tried helping her understand her psyche so that she could change. It didn't work. In desperation, she poured out her heart to a friend who advised her to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe's advice was deceptively simple: Every day at lunch get something for someone else. You're in the cafeteria anyways, pour water for one person or bring the ketchup for another. She thought that was odd advice. But having exhausted all other avenues, sure didn't hurt to try. And wonder of wonders - doing small little kind actions for the people around her day in, day out effected a change. She slowly became more refined.

Mitzvos refine us
לא ניתנה המצות אלא לצרף בהם את הבריאות
בראשית רבה פרשה מד

We can create feelings. Doing the right thing day in, day out actually creates a change in us. That's whether we understand it or not, whether it is meaningful or not.

And in fact….
The only way to really feel something is when you do it.

You can sit and discuss Hilchos Shabbos and the beauty of Shabbos from today until tomorrow, but you can't feel it until you do it. To understand Shabbos, you gotta just keep it. Experience it. That's really the only way to explain Shabbos to anyone. You can read books and instruction manuals from today until tomorrow, but it'll never be real until you live it. Btw that is why Mitzvos have a supreme advantage over Torah. How will you become a better photographer - by daily watching online tutorials or daily photoshoots? Until you are out on the field it is all theory. That is why we have kabbalos ol and just do it even when we aren't feeling it.

Point #3: What do I do if I'm not feeling it?
To Do If you do mitzvos even though it feels meaningless you are not being a hypocrite! That's because the real you is your neshama. A Jew is Elokus. At essence, the truest part of who I am is the self that is one with G-d.

Even though I may not feel like doing a mitzvah on the surface - my neshama feels like it. When I actually do the mitzvah, I am tapping into the inner, possibly dormant part of myself. It's not fake. It’s the real me. It's not hypocritical. I am getting to know my internal self. It’s the real me.

Being my true self is the truest expression of being a Jew.

Following in Hashem's ways is what I was born to do. When I do that, I'm in touch with who I really am.

So sure, I may not always feel like doing the right thing. I may feel fake covering my knees when I really don’t want to. I may feel hypocritical davening after watching a movie. But don’t think so much. Just do it. Wake up your inner, true self. That’s who you really are. More: that's who you really want to be.

Story: R' Mendel Futerfas couldn't speak English, but he went on Mivtzoim in America. There was a toughie on the route - the bochrim were never able to get him to put on Tefillin. They continued to visit anyways, chatting, leaving pamphlets. They'd long given up hope of laying Tefillin. But R' Mendel didn't need any fancy English. He tapped into the guy's soul, "Me Jewish," he pointed at himself, "You Jewish. Me Tefillin, you Tefillin."

This is who you really are. A yid, at his core, wants to put on Tefillin.  That's the instinctive Shema Yisroel of a Jew. Migth need a reminder that that is what is going on in your neshama, but it's there.
That is why we have kabbolas ol and just do the mitzvos. It’s the basis of a rich and meaningful yiddishkeit. Of course we should try to pursue meaning, learn, discuss, understand, feel it. But failing that, or really, while that process is in progress (a lifetime!), just do it. Your  heart will follow your deeds. Doing the Mitzvos strengthens the connected-to-Hashem pathways in your brain. Neuroplasticity in action. Just do it.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I Quit

I'm quitting my job. I've had enough. I was bored, so I went back to work too early and took on too much after my recent maternity leave. And it's taken it's toll. The accumulation of fatigue, resentment and juggling everything has finally added up.

I quit.

The decision brought immense relief and sparked stores of creativity. Suddenly I was writing novels, cooking gourmet, animating videos and teaching my daughter's prep class. No longer shackled to the bell, I felt free.

But deep inside myself I knew it would not happen. I couldn't really quit. Though I hadn't felt it in months, I knew that I'd once loved my job. Only.... not as a job. I'd loved teaching because it filled me with a sense of purpose and mission. I had a shlichus to do and ready-made keilim sitting in front of me.  The frustration and resentment only built up when I started viewing teaching as a job. It wasn't so much about the dollars and cents.

Ever since I'd rushed back in I was busy covering curriculum, focused on the technicalities of teaching. I was ticking boxes when students brought the correct materials to class, remembered their homework, forgot their homework yadda, yadda yoo. In the old day those were details. Details that I rarely tended to. And in the old days I was also a passionate teacher, crafting experiences that brought the learning to life.

I want that back.

So I quit. I quit my job and I went out on shlichus. Nothing has changed.... and yet everything's changed.

I guess I finally earned that COL article. A couple years back I confessed to some students that  I felt like a second class citizen as a teacher rather than a Chabad House Shlucha. It bothered me so much that I even asked Simon Jacobson about it.  One dear girl gifted me with a mock COL article describing how I went out on Shlichus as a teacher. Best gift.

And so today when I quit my job and started my shlichus I pulled out her article and read it word for word. It was like reading it for the first time. I think it's the best mission statement I could ever hope for.

I'm thrilled to have quit and ever so excited for my new position!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How To: Passport Picture

I've had to work this out from scratch four times now so I figure I'll post the instructions. At least I'll be able to find them next time and maybe it'll help someone else searing for a how-to (and bring traffic here! Yay!)
  1. Take LOTS of pictures, following the guidelines (no shadows etc)
  2. Create a document in publisher or Photoshop or your preferred photo-editing software in the dimensions necessary for the final product
  3. If you can (like in publisher) make the margins to indicate the difference between actual picture and largest allowed head size. For instance, my picture size needed to be # and the head size is allowed to be between # and # so my margins are #. I was able to do this when using publisher, but in Photoshop I skipped this step and estimated with my eye.
  4. Pop the picture into the document. In Photoshop the default is a sizing tool when you drag a picture in so that is super helpful and the job is basically done right there
  5. Make another document in the photo printing size 4x6
  6. "Select all" in the first document and then "copy" and "paste" the picture into the 4X6 document
  7. Repeat (or just copy the layer) because the government obviously doesn't have copy machines and they require two pictures
  8. Now you'd hate to have to repeat all that photo certification running around and printing again. So choose another two shots at least and repeat the process. That way when you submit your application you have several choices all ready to go.

Truth is it really is worth paying for a professional to do this. So far I'm at my third round of trying to get it right. Either way, maybe these instructions will be of benefit to someone else and my toil will not have been in vain!

Update: After all that... if your applying for a US passport just click here. Pop your photo in and it automatically adjusts. Couldn't get better than that! Actually it could... imagine the day where we all need only one passport.

Happy shooting,

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bedtime Battles

The other day I had an epiphany. "I'd better start liking bedtime," I wrote in my diary, "after all, by the rate things are going I'm going to be serving at this post for another 20 years."

OK, I exaggerate. My youngest is 6 weeks so I've got another 10 years of bedtime ahead of me? 12? Either way, I need to stop crying that I hate bedtime every night.

Literally crying.

Last night my husband was out during the joyous hour. At one point in the chaos of bedding down three big ones while holding a newborn I'd had enough. I tried "disengage". Clutching baby to my chest I closed the door to my bedroom, leaned against it and started sobbing, praying for success in The Bedtime Battles.

Tonight was the opposite side of the coin. The difference was dramatic! Oh sure, my throat was still sore at the end of it but thankfully that was caused by a different sort of screaming. It was Love Screaming.

The turnaround came after everyone was successfully bathed and readying for stories. The girls were clothed but the towel-clad child was testing out how far he could push his mother by asking his sisters to touch him.

I screamed.

And then I remembered, "put as much (or more) energy into positivity as you would negativity."

K, I made up that quote. But I figured that if we are supposed to be charging our children with positive vibes and connection then I should SCREAM an affirmation (hence the term 'Love Scream') just as loud as I would scream if things were going wrong.

And I did.

A mere two seconds later, there went Mother Banshee once again. Same tone, different words.


The kid flipped. Backtrack - he looked terrified when I started screaming "oh wow look at you" and took him a minute to realize this was a Love Scream aka affirmation. It was wild!

I had such fun that I kept screaming for the rest of bedtime.


when I normally would have screamed at the child to place her head on her pillow. And guess what? That's exactly what she did.

Truly a miraculous tool!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A New Way

I'm starting a new parenting course. This was a big jump for me as I really, really liked Sheffer. Oh, sure there was an item or two that didn't sit well with me. In general, though, I'd really adopted the approach and was using it exclusively.

There was one problem:

Part of the structure of the Sheffer system is to solve problems. At each session a participant would raise an issue and then after learning the topic of the day we'd resolve it (actually she'd resolve it) after digging deep to discover what the problem really was. Towards the end of the course, sessions were spent problem-solving all the way. It was terrific. I loved the system and was even able to do some problem solving with a friend on the phone.

And time moved on...

And I grew forgetful...

And I'm stuck.

Stuck believing in a system that I am no longer able to practice. I need the support of the problem solving sessions or a refresher course, but alas, neither are available.

So I'm moving on. Bit sad but I'm really looking forward to gaining a new set of tools. From what I've seen of the course (read a book on the approach) it will really work for Daniel.

Feeling hopeful!!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Newborn yet Bored

He's not three weeks old yet. I should be resting, they tell me. But whilst my body is fatigued my mind is bored.

I'm used to being busy and productive - I mean, I was still working 3 days before birth and uploading materials for my sub in between contractions. So it's no wonder I haven't slowed down yet. And quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to slow down. When people ask, "How are you?" Or "Wow, out and about already?" I'm stuck. Sure, I need the rest. But I'm feeling cooped up and just plain bored.

My older son (6.5) is thrilled to have a brother. He's been discussing at exactly which point baby brother will move into his room. Part of me wants to snuggle him close and never let go. As time passes, though, another part of me grows.... The part that's counting down until baby is old enough to sleep through the night and I can get back to routine.

Look, kid, if your reading this don't worry - I love you like crazy! Snapping photos, cuddling, nursing, calling you funny names and talking to you in high pitched nonsense words. It's just the same struggle I've always had:  working mom vs SAHM...... how much to work.....  should i send my toddler to full time or part time childcare.....
And whenever I think I've reached middle ground the same issue resurfaces. Am I forever doomed?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mimi and Lani

Were you ever so slow
That Momma yelled, "Go!"
You were busy
You were frilly
Lost in your own world
Goin about your day
Nice and easy pace
When Momma yelled, "Go!"
You shook, you quacked
Them Momma yelled, "Go!
"Daughter, why are you so slow?"
And you dwadled
And you toddled
And you took your time today
Until Momma yelled, "Go!
"Gotta get on with my day"
But you were moving slow
But your Momma
She got hotter
Her collar was a'fire
"Go, go, go!
"Get a move on little daughter!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Busy with Loads of Time

A bit of self reflection before Rosh Hashana... Found this short draft from April:

I'm disappointed with myself. I cut back on work for the express purpose of being more available for my family. It's been two months and I still haven't gotten my act together. Take tonight for instance: When the kids came home from school today I served dinner and hung out with them. But then I started to feel a bit restless, and as bedtime drew near, I started marking tests when I should have been dressing the little 'uns in p-jams.

And now:

The next term I increased my teaching load from one subject to four subjects, in addition to sporadic subbing. Last week I taught 17 hours face to face! When I try to picture the amount of preparation that went into that... shudder. My kaf hakelah experience this year taught me two really important things:

1. Firstly, like the old VP at school used to say, "If you want to make sure something will happen then give the job to the busiest person you can find." I found that to be true for me personally this term. I've BH been able to keep my head over water and work out a system to still run my house and love my children (and myself!!) as a result of the busy-ness.

2. Secondly, stop kvetching. At one point during all my busy-busy-ness I made a mental switch. I decided that instead of whining that I didn't have time to breathe (which was close to true!) I should just keep going and quit complaining. What a relief that was! I actually enjoyed being busy once I stopped analyzing my life choices five times every day. I think 'saving Cheshbon HaNefesh for evening' should be my new hachlata this year, no?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Role

" mitzvas Tzitzis," Mimi intoned as she lifted the hems of her skirt to her lips with a kiss, "Now the girl's bracha!"

"What's the girl's bracha?"

"Hareini mekabel..."

Hmm, she might be right after all. I've spent so much of my mental energies lately analyzing my role as  wife, mom of three, housekeeper and such. Maybe it all comes down to this one bracha: accepting the responsibility of loving my family like myself, even when that entails washing their clothes, wiping spills and picking up after them. 

Thanks, Mim.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The "I" ride

My brother took me for a ride. He was quite the handful, actually. When we started out, he was ever so cautious. It was his fist time behind the SUV wheel and he understood his limitations. It took about 12 minutes to reach our destination, normally 5 minutes away. For instance, he let three rounds of a traffic light pass before making it across a busy intersection without a light. But given the circumstances, that was great. Timing does not feature as an important goal for a new driver. His focus and caution earned him many a point.

We arrived at our destination. My sister and her new husband were excited to see the fresh-faced driver at the wheel, and his enthusiasm for the trip went up a few notches. A few too many notches, that is...

"Calm down, brother." I cautioned him, "easy does it."

But it was too late. He was high.

We hit the road again, but this time the results were downright scary. His sharp turns and speed had us nervously barking orders. Three back seat drivers! He took it too far when he nearly scraped the side of a parked car. My brother-in-law made him stop, get out and look at the crash-that-was-not. BH we made it home safely, but for the next day I was enormously grateful for the solid ground under my feet.

In analysis, my brother readily agreed that the chief trouble-maker here was ego. When he understood his limitations at the beginning of the ride, brother was a star chauffeur. Once his success got to his head, he was overconfident, almost giddy. Proud of his skill and showing off, our ride could have ended in disaster.

The dangers of confidence.

On the other hand, if he had been too timid he never would have crossed that first intersection. There has got to be a balance between recognizing one's strengths and excessive caution.

I'm sure he'll get better at it for the next ride...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Everything I need to know in life I learned from a plane flight

A few months ago I stepped onto an airplane with three children and stayed there for fourteen hours. There were many other people on the flight, but those three little chocolate balls were my responsibility for the trip.

People were amazed that I was brave enough to travel solo. But there was one person who's comment really astounded. CL is a friend who I admire to no end. She comes from a similar background to mine, but she made a lifestyle choice that I envy. CL is a SAHM. My hero-style mom. And yet... and yet... when I threw the compliment back at her, "What do you mean? You are a full time mother all the time" she quickly returned with, "Sure, but never for fourteen hours straight on my own."

So I've spent some time thinking and wondering about what made the trip work. Today I came up with a new thought. Plane ride = purpose. As in, my to-do list for the flight had one item on it: take care of the children.

You see, sometimes I can have a day that is charged with meaning: a non-stop day at work, an Erev Shabbos with a long to-do list, a writing deadline or a scheduled lecture. On those sort of days every moment is fraught with meaning, every second too precious too be wasted. The day has a goal.

As a teen, I thrived off days like that. (read: nights) I would wait until the night before a report was due to get started.... and always got an A. "A" for adrenaline that is... Always ready last minute and still great quality. This style of working unfortunately became second nature to me. I say unfortunately because preparing lessons last minute is not so well suited to a mothering lifestyle, when children also have last minute needs. I keep trying to complete tasks before they are due, but there is just something magical about the last minute rush.  Until today, I never stopped to analyse the quality of the time.

What changed?

Today was rather ordinary. No work today. Kids slept in, when they work, I fed and dressed them, dropped the oldest at school and went to a shiur with the girls. We came home around 11:30 and I fed them lunch, then settled everyone for naps. But they wouldn't sleep. I started to feel pressured... until I realized that there was nothing urgent waiting to get done. So I chilled. But it felt odd. I'm always so busy, running from one thing to the next... and here there was nothing to get done... I had no excuse to get annoyed. Odd.

So I slept with them a bit. Then I woke up, wandered around the house, looking for something to get busy with. Tried clean up, phone calls, diaper changing... Can you read the boredom in this recounting of my day? Then I stopped to myself and thought, "hey, what's my purpose?"

Light bulb moment.

Life is always so pressured that I run from task to task without looking at the overall picture. But today was so low key. Notice the difference? On an airplane I have one goal: look after my family. When I'm hours away from an assignment's due date there is one goal: complete the assignment. Erev Shabbos? One goal: cook, cook, cook.

Notice a trend here?
Pressure gives purpose.
More pressure gives more urgency to that purpose.

So it looks like I've got to analyse what my overall purpose is on an everyday level. I've got to mimic the sense of mission I feel on a long plane flight and apply purpose to charge the regular in between moments.
Ah, now I've got a busy item on my to-do list! Yay! Time to run off and get busy again...

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Crutches aren't much fun. Oh, they look exciting as a kid. Those so afflicted revelled in the attention. Not me. I was proud of my never-cast-never-accident claim to fame. In fact, when my daughter hurt her finger last year my shock was largely centred on "that happened to my daughter?!?". So when I found myself swinging around with a sprained ankle three weeks after my third was born I was none too pleased.

The biggest irony of the whole event, though, is all about my momma. You see, for five years I have been saying that my goal in life is to be just like my mother. And she had also just sprained her ankle. Only that wasn't what I meant!

What I really meant was I wanted to imitate Mommy's...

1. EMPATHY: My mother is the best listener you ever meant. "How to Listen so Kids Will Talk?" That's her. She totally integrated those principles. And more, because many an adult finds themselves spilling their deepest and darkest to her on their first encounter. I think it's defiantly because she just listens, empathises and never passes it on.

2. INTROSPECTIVE: Not only did my mother listen to us, but she taught us how to listen to ourselves. She trained us to dig deep, think about the why. Twas rather cute to overhear my brother concurring that he enjoyed her penetrating questions because it taught him to think.

Which brings me to the next quality...

3. NURTURING: Mommy relishes caring for other people, mostly through food. She loves hosting people at her house. My grandparents call her home a "magnet"

4. MINIMALIST: My mother is not into things. Take the living room for example: Three couches in her house were originally purchased for my father's bachelor apartment more than 25 years ago. They look super masculine and are covered with couch covers. I could never endure that but Mommy cares not a hoot. There is another, simply gorgeous couch in the front room, but that one is an inheritance from her grandmother.

5: LEARN AND GROW: Sure, the Magnet attracts those with physical hunger, but spiritual-seekers can be found there as well. Twice a week she opens the door for shiurim with two popular lecturers and a dance class, too. That's pretty incredible on its own, as my dining room is suffering from the Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome more often than not. The thing that really gets me here is her face when she sits and listens to the classes. My mother is drinking the stuff up! She's for real about it, too. Listening, learning, taking notes, discussing, internalizing, and growing. Always growing. Once when I called and asked, "How are you today?" she responded, "I'm working on my Bitachon." What an answer! Mommmy, you are AWESOME! I've learned from my mother that life is a continuous journey and I can keep on improving.

Mommy, thank you. I am still learning from you. I watch you and am amazed at all you do and juggle. Hashem should bentch you with a gut gebentched yohr where you continue to inspire others and your challenges should be cast away like my crutches.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jury Duty (Guest Post)

My sister Chava is the most awesome person you'll ever meet. Fun, active, thought-provoking and just gorgeous. She wrote an incredible piece on her jury experience this week. Enjoy!

The court room is tense. The room is silent, everyone is following directions, there's about 40 people and I'm #3. The judge begins asking each person questions. #1 then #2 and suddenly my hearts racing and I hear the judge say #3! I am sure everyone can see my heart pumping, my red face and my shaky voice. All eyes are on me. I'm talking to the judge! The judge keeps reassuring us, its all good, no need to worry, there's no right or wrong. My turn passes.
For the next group question you have to raise you hand to answer yes, and I again, this time way more relaxed, raise my hand and answer the judges questions. Not so tense and scary after all.
This experience hit home. This is exactly the time frame we are in right now...that tense aura of the month of elul, hearts pounding, shofar is blowing, it's time to do teshuva, Rosh Hashana is near, we are going to be judged. And... The judge, Hashem, the king, our father is out in the field so close to us, smiling, reassuring us, telling us to come and ask whatever we like. Now's our chance! Take advantage! It's really not all tense and's our father asking us what we want for the new year! Hashem is telling me to come and ask! What am I waiting for? Ask!! Make the keili!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Foucs on Food #1: AROMA


How many ways are there to slice it?

Newest trick: Put a clove into the pan while roasting chicken. The aroma it lends to the food is incredible! Sounds simple? Maybe. But did you know that you don't even have to peel the thing???

The peel is so small, slim, paper-thin really, you would think it hardly matters at all. Still, the chef explained that it creates more sweetness when you leave the peel in. We can skip the mechanics of that one - the cool thing is how well it ties into the upcoming Yomim Noraim.

When the new year chugs in, there's always a lot of hype about resolutions, making them stick... one technique out there is baby steps. Still, I often want to feel grand and create a whole new me overnight.

The answer is a slim as a garlic peel.

Even the tiniest things can make a whole world of difference and draw an incredible AROMA into the food. One slim little change is all that's needed.

Now that's doable!

K'siva V'chasima Tovah :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013


Texting has destroyed my ability to write!!!

Suddenly, I find myself ending sentences in multiple exclamation marks. The shorter the sentence, the better. Ugh. I tried writing an article for a local magazine, but I kept on restarting. I just couldn't get the words to flow. I used to be able to churn out an article or post with ease. Write a few paragraphs on a given subject in passable English? Sure, just give me twenty minutes. And here I am... choppy sentences and all. What happened to me?

Recently, I even caught myself thinking in text. The thoughts scrolled in, bit by bit, with a  brief interlude to type the words, as though they were coming across a whatsapp chat. Now this has got to stop!
There was a little bit of myself, the author in me, that had just started emerging, but since I joined the ranks of smart-phone owners... gone...

So here I am, forcing myself to write out a thought in more than the top sentence. I'm not particularly pleased with the piece, but forcing myself to let it out there anyways.

Because the only way to improve my writing is by writing.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Positive Reinforcement

My happiness
Sometimes the silliest things make us happy.

The school I work in takes report cards very seriously. Let me make that really clear: The school I work in takes report cards very seriously. I had never seen anything like it before, and it hit me like a ton of bricks on a clear day the first time I had to write them.

When I was in school, I got an "A+" (most of the time...) and a little footnote "1" for "pleasure to have in class" and "23" for "too talkative". That was it. Clean and simple. Probobly took a grand total of thirty minutes for a teacher to fill in the appropriate letters and numbers. Oh yes, there was an option to add an additional comment on the back, but there was never more than a scentance or two between my 20-odd teachers.

Anyways, the report cards I have to write are from a different planet entirely. Here's a sample...
Yah. Intense. The part that didn't make it onto the screen (!) was a course descriptor I wrote for my subject. Anywhooo.... it's a rather intense process, and I'm B"H in the final stages of it now. But I noticed something interesting. My absolute favorite part is watching the little red bullet next to each student's name turn green when I've finished her report. I actually yelped, "yes!" Just so thrilling. Oh, the small pleasures in life...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Make learning compulsory and attendance optional.

When I first started teaching, I modelled my style after a favourite High School teacher of mine. Like me, she was young, with-it and taught Jewish History. Thing is, she didn't quite have the best classroom management techniques. She prepared short lessons, designed to fill only 1/2 to 3/4 of the allotted time. Then we'd gather 'round her desk and chat. Sometimes she didn't prepare at all. None of us minded. We felt very close to Ms. Young - we were her first students ever, we celebrated her engagement, wedding and the birth of her first child throughout the four years she taught us. But I was never scared of her. Not the slightest.
My head told me that I ought to be modelling after my Math teacher instead. Mrs. Math was scary! We did our homework nightly (though it meant schlepping home a textbook and notebook), studied hard for our weekly tests and were silent as the grave in the classroom. There was a stretch when I tutored a fun-loving classmate for a few months - even the Clown of the Class wanted to do well in Mrs. Math's class. Still, I have fond memories of Mrs. Math. By the time we were in our second year with her, she was telling us stories and there was a lovely atmosphere, but still very formal. It was clear that Mrs. Math was boss.
Make learning compulsory and attendance optional.
That wasn't necessarily Mrs. Math's mantra. Her's was probably more like, "I am KING" - because she was! Still, I think adopting that line would make for a classroom where the learning is much more effective. Whatever has to happen will happen, but I as teacher have one strong goal for each lesson. A mission, if you will. And I'm out there to make that learning happen! Be there or be square...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Yummy and Healthy

"Lollies," my son fondly stated, "we can only eat one. It's not healthy."

I could almost hear a deep sigh. Such trauma for a three year old. He wasn't finished. Daniel had prepared an entire thesis on the subject that he was preparing to expound on the topic, right there, in the back seat of the car.

"Some foods are yummy, but they are not healthy."

Yes, my son, such is life...

"We can only eat them on Shabbos. Like lollies and cookies."

"Daniel," I asked him, "What about strawberries? Are strawberries a treat?"

"Yah." a little wag of the finger accompanied the next injunction. "But only one."


"It's not healthy."

The laughter bubbled up inside of me, but I squeezed down the lid to maintain a straight face.

"Sweetie, strawberries are yummy AND healthy."


"What about watermelon?"

"Yes, honey, watermelon is healthy."

He thought he could push his luck, "Chocolate?"

"No, chocolate is not healthy*. But we can have some for Shabbos."

He smiled, and settled back in his seat contentedly for the rest of the ride.