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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Carpool Pressure

So I've got this great carpool situation.
I drive to work and I take my good friend who lives down the block with me.
Although we don't work for the same company we live and work so close together that sharing a commute is a breeze.

All the way there we joke around and talk about more serious matters in our lives and in the world. We mess with the radio, and make fun of JM in the AM.
She subjects me to her bad taste in music: Disco, oldies, Shiny Shoe, and club style dance music
and I subject her to mine: Power-pop, indie/alt rock, folk, punk and the 80's greatest hits.

On the way home we complain about the day's work, our jerky bosses, the stress, the idiots in the office and how we wish we were home with our kids. By the time we arrive at our doors we are relaxed, refreshed and unwound. In fact we both refer to our commute as "our social life."

Alas all good things must come to an end. A co-worker of my carpool buddy found out about our little "arrangement" and wants in. I've given her a ride a few times (I know her from our neighborhood) and she's certainly a nice person but its not going to be the same now.

My carpool buddy and I discussed it and we both agreed that we couldn't say no but we are both totally bummed.

Are we evil or just wimpy?
Maybe we are evil wimps.
Now THAT's depressing.

Halloween Customs - Frum Style

Here's another brief post as I'm still in over my head at work...

Like most Orthodox Jews my family and I do not celebrate Halloween. Although it has more to do with playing dress up and eating candy these days, it's pagan origins keep most OJ's steering clear of it's spooky celebration.
I do however (as my parents have before me) give out candy to tricker-treaters who come to my door.
There are many adorable (and not so adorable children) in our neighborhood and our doorbell will ring from 4PM (little kids with plastic pumpkins holding their mommy's hand while daddy takes a picture) to 9PM (teenagers with a cheesy rubber mask and pillowcase.)

Here are my rules:
  • Two or three mini-candy bars per tricker-treaker.
  • No grabbing
  • Anyone arriving after 9PM gets nothing. If you are old enough to be out at 9:30 on a school night you are too old to tricker-treat.
  • My kids get 2-3 candies each over the course of the evening (if they eat dinner.)
  • The remaining candy (if there is any) goes on the high shelf in the kitchen to be distributed later as I see fit.

When I was a kid I found giving out candy to tricker-treaters to be a lot of fun. A veritable costume parade and the joy of handing out candy to children (and of course eating some) without having to leave your house seemed like quite a deal. My kids enjoy it too. It's rather disruptive during dinner and homework time but it's only once a year so I can handle it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Excuses and a Short Anecdote

Hey I'll be playing catch up ( Catch-up? catchup? Ketchup? Catsup?) at work today but I don't want to leave you with no new material so here's a cute anecdote for your amusement:

The other day my younger daughter was playing in our backyard with a friend. They came running in excitedly to tell me they'd found a slug. They asked for a jar and I gave them one. They filled it with dirt and rocks and sticks and leaves and everything a slug might want, then they came running in again to show me.
"Oooh very nice" I said.
"We named it too!" said my daughter
"What did you name it?" I asked
"Chavi" she replied "Chavi Kaufman."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Six Flags - Great (overwhelmingly Jewish) Adventure

I'm thinking of taking my kids to the NCSY Six Flags thing this Sunday.
Normally I'm not a huge fan of crowds/amusement parks/throngs of Jewish people all in one place (see also Brooklyn) but my kids have been very well behaved all Yom Tov and have been asking me if we can go... and it does sound like fun (sorta.)

If you think you may be going, or have gone in the past and want to warn me against it, leave a comment or drop me a line via email!

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Few Pre-Yom Tov Items

1) My bubby is so cool.
I called my grandmother yesterday and we caught up a little. I have not spoken to her since Rosh Hashana so she was catching me up. She said she stayed home on Yom Kippur (walking up the hill to her shul is hard for her at 88 years old!) She said she spent the entire day davening nice and slowly, resting here and there when she got tired. "I was really into it" she said "more so than any other year, I don't know why." Pretty impressive.

2) My house is feeling small.
I am thrilled to have a house of my own but it's too small! My basement is a leaky mess and therefore unsuitable for man or beast. The rest of my house consists of 3 BRs, Livingroom/Diningroom a kitchen and 1.5 baths.
Weeks ago I invited my brother in law and sister and their new baby to come for Sukkos.
Last week my sister-in-law asked if her college aged sister could come along so I said sure!
Then my husband's cousin (in med school a couple hours away) called Saturday night and asked if he could come too so I said "if you'll sleep on the couch" and he said "great!" So every possible sleeping area is now spoken for. The next person who calls up will have to sleep in the bathtub, and speaking of which....

3) I fixed the bathtub drain!
Suddenly Sunday morning the bathtub stopped draining. With a pile of guest of the way and only one shower I had to act quickly. Is spite of my husband's insistence that we call a plumber I took apart the drain, unclogged it (SOOOO DISGUSTING) and put it all back together. Yay me!

4) Sukkah decorations = Driveway litter
What is with this WIND?!
My youngest and I hung up some shiny new decorations yesterday morning and this morning they are all destroyed. I need to come up with some kind of indestructible Sukkah decorations. Hmmm... How much would you pay for an item like that? Maybe I can sell them off my blog? The wheels are spinning.

5) Refridgerators
One of my brothers-in-law is abroad for the year and left me his dormroom fridge to use in his absence. It's been sitting around since May but with all the holiday cooking I've been doing I decided to plug it in an use it. How long do you think it takes a small fridge to get cold? I let it crank up for about 3-4 hours and then I put a cooled (enormous) roast in it. I hope the fridge was cold enough. I don't have enough bathrooms to accommodate 9 people with food poisoning. It should be fine right? right?

6) I'm tired
Despite my best efforts to cook in advance, build the sukkah early, and take things one step at a time I still feel like I'll be going into yom tov rushed and exhausted. Also my head hurts - I need a nap followed by a latte.

I'm still very much looking forward to Yom Tov. I love Sukkos, and not just because it's my birthday, but because it's such a fun holiday. Eating outside in our new sukkah, thinking of God's protection and our travels in the midbar, visiting with friends and family, eating delicious meals, singing hallel, the smell of the esrog, I love it all.

A good gebentcht Yom Tov to all of you!

Friday, October 14, 2005

J-Blog Review Part II (Just Steg)

One of my dream jobs is to be a book reviewer.
Imagine getting paid to sit around reading stacks of books all day and then writing up your assessment of them. I'm nearly swooning just thinking about it.

Until that day comes I'll keep practicing.
I enjoyed writing the first J-Blog review (at least as much as my readership seemed to have enjoyed reading it) plus it gives me more of an excuse to spend time reading blogs.

Anyway on with the show:

I only have time to review one blog today and so I have chosen.....

Steg and I have been co-commenters on the J-blog scene for quite some time now. When it comes to being "reasonable" we are a close match. His self described mini-blog delves into a variety of not-so-mini topics from dikduk, to diverse Jewish experiences, to parachuting cows and exploding shofars.
An educator both on and off blog his modest style belies a great wealth of knowledge on many topics as well as sharp mind.
I don't know if it's his fearlessness, his overt geekiness, his eclectic nature, or his sense of humor that does it for me, but Steg, I think I have a blog-crush on you...
If I was single and 10 years younger I'd definately want to be on this man's "checklist checklist!"

Jew Year's Resolutions

Well, Yom Kippur is over and it's time to get back to the business of life and living it.
It's been my intention all through the last month, and especially since Rosh HaShana to sit down and do a real Cheshbon Ha'Nefesh (sort of an inventory of the soul) to figure out where or who I am and where or who I want to be.

That's a hard thing to do...
Somehow I've managed to fill up my days with work, cooking, sukkah building and more recently basement bailing and I have not allowed myself anytime to focus on my own self development. But now it's time, and if I have to force myself to do it "On Blog" to get it done, so be it.

After considerable thought, here are my resolutions for the year:

1) Stay Calm
I tend to get overwhelmed suddenly and without warning. I lose my temper with my husband and my kids briefly but intensely and surely more often than they deserve. I will try to have more perspective and find new ways to get my point across. It's hard to take a raving lunatic seriously and I don't want to be that lunatic.

2) Daven(Pray)
You know, davening is good. I davened more during the aseres yemi tshuva (the 10 days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) than I did the rest of the year combined and it give me a lot to think about during the day. It's very anchoring in terms of reminding me of my daily relationship with God and my connection to Him.

3) Be a Better Friend
Life is busy, and it's easy to forget that lots of people have it tough, tougher than me for sure.
There a lot of people I should just call on the phone now and then to let them know I'm thinking of them and that I think they are doing a great job with the life they've been dealt, and how much they mean to me. Friendships are what makes life sweet, I should be doing more to cultivate new relationships and tend to my old ones as well. I hope to have more shabbos guests this year, attend more of the events I'm invited to, and just be in touch with people who mean a lot to me or people who just need a friend.

4) Watch My Mouth
I talk too much, it's true, just ask my husband!
I complain a lot. I bash things, and people, and ideas while not offering up any thing better myself. I need to do more and talk less. I also find sometimes say inappropriate things (especially online) just to get a laugh, or just because I can.
It's OK to not be funny sometimes- not every humorous thing I think of needs to be unleashed upon the world.

5) Make Things Happen
This year I'm not going to wait for the right job to magically appear, for my my children to magically start helping and stop fighting, for the extra pounds I've put on to suddenly vaporize, for my chance to shine...
I'm going to make it happen.

I wish you all a wonderful year!!

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Seven Meme

What is with the word "Meme" anyway, it's like last years "Meta" or something
Steg and Mirty tapped me on this one so here goes:

7 Things I Can Do:

Make kids laugh
Be a good friend
Fix almost anything
Bake Kugel (and all other manner of delicious holiday foods)
Draw a crowd by sketching in a museum (actually anyone can, try it sometime!)
Build a sukkah
Gut a fish

7 Things I Can't Do:

Parallel park in a reasonable amount of time
Pass by a modest looking black skirt at any store without at least considering buying it
Keep my voice down when I'm really passionate about something
Focus on work all day without sneaking a peek at the blogs now and then
Stay angry for an extended period of time
Lie convincingly
Keep my house completely clutter free

7 Things I Hope To Do Before I Die:

Publish something significant
Earn the respect of my in-laws
Live in Israel
See my children grow up to be independant and happy
Learn to play guitar
Make a living at something I enjoy
Pass on everything I've learned

7 Things I Say Often:
I'm sorry
Although... (followed by the opposite of what I'd just said)
I'll be RIGHT there
How was I supposed to know the monkey was allergic to crackers!?

7 Bloggers I Would Like To Infect With This Meme:

Little Wolf
Air Time
Still Wondering
Ben Avuya

If you've already seen it or done it or don't wanna do that's fine.
It took me long enough to get around to it myself....

Yeshiva Day School of Your Dreams

Ridiculously high tuition aside, I'm very happy with my kids' school.
This, of course, makes me feel like a terrible parent since nearly every parent I speak to (whether they send their kids to my kid's school or any other school) seem to have PLENTY to complain about.

So here's a chance for all of us to dream big:

If you were designing an all new Superior Jewish Day School (SJDS) what would be important to you? Tell me about things you've seen and liked in other schools or any brand new innovations you've come up with.

Having trouble getting started?
Here are some line items to consider:

  • Curriculum
  • Hashkafa
  • Scheduling (daily, yearly)
  • Co-ed vs Single Sex
  • Teachers/Administration
  • School budget
  • tuition/scholarships/fundraising
  • Admissions
  • Athletics and other extras (music, arts, etc...)
  • Chesed
  • Discipline
  • Dress Code

This should be a fun exercise, I look forward to see what great ideas everyone has bottled up from their own school days and their joys and frustrations with the schools they send their children to now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Don't Take My Stapler

I work for a mid-sized company as a consultant.
As such I am treated like crap.
Although I've been here over three years I recieve no benefits and little respect.

Two weeks ago I was moved from my small but nice office with a window to an interior office (no windows) that used to be a closet and is centrally located between the mens' room and the ladies' room so I have the soothing sound of flush toilets to keep me company all day long.
Well I was a pretty good sport about that but today I was told that I'm being moved in with the MAINTENANCE CREW?! Well, I think NOT.

Since I no longer report to the man the hired me I don't really have much in the way of options. If they are that short of space around here I'd be happy to work from home. Short of that I believe I'll have to quit if this continues. I only wish I wasn't so choked by my financial responsibilities.

Happy New Year indeed!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

This (fish) is my atonement

Today I gutted a fish.
It was whitefish, nearly three pounds and about a foot and a half long.
I didn't catch it myself, I bought it at the grocery store, so you can trust me on the weight.
I have not gutted a fish myself in many years and certainly not one as large as that.
As I sliced into the fish's belly the (no longer) vital organs began to slip out immediately and when I looked down my hands were covered in fish blood- a pretty awful sight really.
As I switched to a serrated blade to get through the tougher part of the fish I thought- well, better him than me... and then it made me start thinking about Kapparot (or kapporos which ever you prefer.)


"Kapparot (Hebrew, atonement) a term used in the folk custom of Judaism; it means the practice of attaining atonement before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, so that a more severe judgment will not be reached on that day. On the day before Yom Kippur a live fowl is taken (a cock for the man and a hen for the woman) and is swung by the neck around the person who says: "This is my atonement, this is in exchange for me, this is my substitute." The fowl is then slaughtered and it, or its value, is then given to the poor, while its disembowlled interior is given to birds [Is this true? Some howo I think that chickens might not actually appreciate a chicken dinner- Shifra] as a further act of charity. Rabbis opposed the custom, but recognizing the power of folk religion, they suggested that at least a monetary substitution for the fowl of eighteen coins be made, and in that form the custom is still present. "

...zeh ha' dag she holech l'seudat Rosh Hashana- V'ani ekanes l'chaim tovim, aruchim, aruchim , u'lshalom.
Translation - This is the fish that goes (to become) my New Year's meal- and I will enter into a good, long, and peaceful life.

A sweet New Year to all of you.
May all your fish arrive to your homes cleanly filleted.