granola bar dilemma and other rebbitzin tales

Some of my biggest challenges happen in the supermarket. Will they have the fish that I want? Will the lines be unending? Will I have to see people I really don’t want to see? Will people who don’t want to see me have to endure the sight of me?


Yesterday, I was trying to get through the store aqap, but I was stymied in the granola bar aisle. I usually purchase some bars of some kind for travel. But I end up feeling all Goldilocksy–some are too soft, some are too hard, and, to be honest, I haven’t come across the just right ones, but I was looking to see if there were any new options.

I noticed someone who I know in the next aisle over on the phone and we waved. I figured that would be safe enough and I wouldn’t have to talk to him. But of course, a few minutes later (while I’m still Buridan-assing over the granola bars) he comes over. He says to me, “I’m sure you hear this a lot, but your husband is amazing.”

Actually I don’t really remember what he said exactly, because I don’t want him thinking I really know why he’s saying it, so I’m trying to feign ignorance. That’s not really hard for me. I don’t really know why he thinks that, but I also probably know enough, only because of the amount of phone calls back and forth between them. So I play along.

“Thanks. I just stand back and let him do his magic.”

Which is true. But yes, we all know that magicians need their assistants, so I guess sometimes I do assist behind the scenes. I’m so happy to let him be in the spotlight.

And then I shared my dilemma of the granola bars and he wished me good luck with my search.

A few minutes later, we caught up again in the next aisle.

“What did you decide?”

“To make my own.”

And so I did.

Banana Oat Bars from

Makes one 9×9-inch pan

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Shall I tell you now what I changed or do you want to guess?


memory brings us forward

I, like so many others, am remembering the assassination of JFK. I am reading various interviews of those who were there with him in Dallas, including heartbreaking details about why Jackie was reaching back on the car after the shots.

Here’s the last line from an article in the Washington Post that describes the 4 days of national trauma:

The United States would never stop telling this story, as a loss of innocence, as a time of unity, as a rote memory.

In our family, we thought the world of him. He was good to the Jews. He was one of the good guys in a world that was simply divided. We didn’t need to differentiate.

Of course I remember where I was when I heard that he had been shot. I was in fifth grade and I was sitting at my desk three-quarters’ back in the room. I retain this image of being very far away from the center. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot.

None of us knew what that meant. Death was kept far away from us, even when family members passed away. Nothing was explained, but this we knew was a change. I don’t know at what point you could place that marker of  the loss of innocence, but I know we all experienced the somberness of the veil being lifted–when we didn’t know if we could trust people who lived among us.

I also remember going over a friend’s house that Monday and watching the funeral procession on her black-and-white television while sculpting a menorah out of soap. I remember the quiet of the house, the quiet of the procession, except for the clip-clop of the horse.

Please take a moment to read this speech, “The Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy; Yeshiva University Charter Day Dinner, 1957.” It’s comparable to Washington’s speech at the Touro Synagogue, both appreciating the best of differences, welcoming religious and intellectual ideas that enrich the quality of our country, the standing of the world.

Oh what a loss! Oh how poor we are today.

I add some photos here of a recent visit to the JFK Library to mark the occasion.

IMG_20131119_145059_569 IMG_20131119_145451_218


My sister told me that someone came over to visit her yesterday. She really wasn’t up for visitors, but they met them in the street while they were doing a little walk around the trees outside, just to get out a bit.

So this family came up and so they came into the house once the walk around was done. They couldn’t tell them not to.

They’re going to have to learn how.

Their teenager accompanied them. And something else accompanied said teenager.

My sister asked if they were tired. “No. I have a cold.”

So here’s another entry for the clueless.

Which, of course, is problematic, because they’re usually too clueless to figure out that these kinds of things are talking about them.

I was going to put in a GIF of Robert De Niro doing his “You talkin’ to me?” routine, but it’s not quite appropriate for a rabbi’s wife…you get the picture, I know.

Instead, I googled “etiquette for visiting the sick”.

I’ll wait while you do it.

Was that so very interesting?

Who knew that etiquette was so particularly other-cultured!

So now I started thinking like a Jew and wrote instead: “laws of visiting the sick.”

Go ahead and google that one, too.

I’ll wait.

A whole ‘nother ball of wax, right???

All good ideas, all around, for sure. And it’s clear that we have to be taught to have compassion.

I didn’t look on youtube yet and I’m not planning on it. That would be too depressing.

None of the sites covered there mentioned DON’T BE SICK when you go visit someone! I guess there’s no law about it.

Where is the common sense?

Well, here‘s one that does!

2. Do not visit if you are hacking, coughing or sniffling.

I’m sick enough already.

But since I did title this culture, and I don’t want to disappoint my fans, here are a few photos I snapped with my phone today at the museum. It was a great day for culture all around.

IMG_20131110_150955_007 IMG_20131110_150959_869 IMG_20131110_152310_257 IMG_20131110_152327_951 IMG_20131110_152331_742 IMG_20131110_152349_445 IMG_20131110_152423_473



may this truly be an omen

Surprise! This email actually did arrive on Friday, but after I had shut my computer/phone down for Shabbat.

Dear Mysending, (YES! They got my name right on this one!)

Congratulations! The repair of your item is now complete. Our service depot has shipped it back to you with tracking number: 1Z21A…………………

Please be sure to test out all of your item’s functionality as soon as you get it and if there still are any issues please immediately contact the service depot at the number they provide. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your claim, please feel free to give us a call at 1-877-555-1111.

It’s unfortunate your item failed, but this is precisely the reason a warranty was the right choice. When buying electronics or appliances from any retailer, don’t forget the SquareTrade warranty!


The SquareTrade Team

Please Note: The bulk of SquareTrade communications are done through email. To ensure you receive important emails, make sure you add this email to your address book.

Now here’s the biggest surprise–guess what arrived today! And guess what has a new unbroken case!

But they didn’t send the really nice cloth that had protected the keyboard.

Which reminds me of a joke:

Smitty:  That’s very cool. The title track, “He Had A Hat,” for those that may not know, talk a little bit about what that means.  It’s kinda funny in a way, but just talk a little bit about why you decided to go with “He Had A Hat.”

JL:  Well, it’s just really a joke.  It’s the punch line to an old Borscht Belt joke, actually.

Smitty:  Yeah.

JL:  And we were just having so much fun in the studio, we were telling jokes and stuff, and it just kinda symbolizes the joy that we had of creating music and sharing music and just having fun in the studio, just hanging out, but anyway, the joke is about a grandmother that takes her grandson to the beach and a big wave comes and sweeps her grandson off the beach, and she’s distraught and she looks up and calls out into the sky like “God, please bring Mikey back.  I’ll do anything, I’ll do good works, I’ll devote myself to feeding the poor, and just anything.  Just please bring Mikey back.”  And all of a sudden a big wave comes and puts the kid right on the beach, and she looks up in the sky and says “He had a hat!”

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

JL:  So it’s just a funny old joke, but it actually has another meaning too, which is….I wear a lot of different hats because sometimes I’m an engineer, I’m a piano player, I’m an arranger, songwriter, I mean, that’s kinda the way it is in this music business these days.  You need to wear a lotta hats in order to survive because it’s kind of a tough competitive environment these days, but we just wanted to put out that vibe of fun and good humor that we had when we were making the record.  That was pretty much it.

another set of real-life emails

The government is broken. A lot of things are broken. I have fashioned 3 drafts of posts that I thought to write this week, one on the legacy of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and powerlessless. One on the Pew Commission and Jewish continuity. Another on to-do lists and their limits.

But I’ll write instead about my laptop.

Did I ever mention how it fell ‘way back in Australia and the case cracked? I had waited to get to a safe time without travels in order to send it in to get repaired.

I did. Three weeks ago, at least now. And I’ve been trading emails back and forth to the company ever since then. Okay, I gave them a few weeks to repair it. They said 5 days. I figured 2 weeks is what they meant.

This the first round of emails:

From: Warranty Help
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 3:47 AM
To: mysending
Subject: Regarding issue:

Hello Mysending,
I apologize for any inconveince caused. 

As per your concern, I have sent an email to our repair depot, to get an update on your claim status.

However, as a courtesy, I have issued you a full refund of the warranty price and the warranty is now completely free for you.

Moreover, your warranty will still continue and is active and in good standing.

The refund will reflect on your account within 3-5 business days.

Square Trade also offers warranty for any electronic item that you will be purchasing from any retailer and retailer’s website within 30days from your purchase date. We also cover eBay purchased electronic items as long as they are within 30days from the purchase date or the auctions close date.

You can also reply to this email or call 1-877-WARRANTY (1-877-927-7268) US & Canada only, 24/7.

Thank you,

SquareTrade Care Specialist
re: Ticket [#00035…..]

Your comment:
I tried calling your phone line to find out what has happened to my laptop. I sent it in over 3 weeks ago. I sat on the phone for at least 20 minutes only to be disconnected. Here is my warranty

8/26/2013 – Claim Approved (more….)
This is my response:

Thank you for your response. I don’t really care about the refund, since I paid it in good faith (not that I’m objecting to receiving it), but I just want to know the status of my laptop! Are you considering putting in another way to find out such a status? This seems pretty round-about.

Basically, I need to know the timeline and whether I should be purchasing another laptop before a big trip that I am making. I had sent it in the window that your site had made about repairs. I need accurate information.

Thanks again.


This is the email I got Wednesday.

Hello {!Contact.FirstName},

I really do apologize for the inconvenience caused.

As per your concern, i contacted the repair depot and got the answer that parts have been ordered and its really difficult to get these parts.

However, they will be delivered and installed by Friday.

Moreover, if the parts are not delivered by Friday then we will simply go ahead and process a reimbursement for you, of the purchase price of the laptop, so that you can purchase a new one. 

I really appreciate your patience and once again I really do apologize for the delay that has happened.

You can also reply to this email or call 1-877-WARRANTY (1-877-927-7268) US & Canada only, 24/7.

Thank you,

SquareTrade Care Specialist
re: Ticket [#{!Case.CaseNumber}]

Your comment:

 I feel like taking a red pen and crossing through all of the mistakes and sending it back to them.

It’s Friday today. Should I create a poll to see how many of you think that I will actually hear from them today?

Should I be happy that they’ve refunded my money?

No! I just want my laptop back.

And for them to use spell-check.

And my name.


what are we building

I was playing with my grandson earlier this week. Actually, he was playing and allowing me to play alongside. While he was so involved with play, it gave me time to review in my head about old theories and constructs of play. Yes, there’s all the philosophers and educators who wax on about the need and value of play. Then there are those who actually made things for children to play with.

Here’s what Dr. Wiki says about toy blocks’ history (It starts in 1693, but I’m skipping that):

1798Witold Rybczynski has found that the earliest mention of building bricks for children appears in Maria and R.L. Edgeworth’sPractical Education(1798). Called “rational toys,” blocks were intended to teach children about gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships that allow them to see how many different parts become a whole.[1] …

1837Friedrich Fröbel invent a preschool educational institution Kindergarten. For that he design ten Froebel Gifts based on building blocks principles. (SIC)

And here’s a bit more about Froebel:

“Realising how the gifts were eventually misused by Kindergarten teachers who followed after Froebel, it is important to consider what Froebel expected the Gifts to achieve. He envisaged that the Gifts will teach the child to use his environment as an educational aid; secondly, that they will give the child an indication of the connection between human life and life in nature; and finally that they will create a bond between the adult and the child who play with them” Joachim Liebschner on page 82 in his book, A Child’s Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel’s Educational Theory and Practice

This brought up Vygotsky and his concept of “tools of the mind”, as well:

The concept of “tools of the mind” comes from the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. He believed that just as physical tools extend our physical abilities, mental tools extend our mental abilities, enabling us to solve problems and create solutions in the modern world. When applied to children, this means that to successfully function in school and beyond, children need to learn more than a set of facts and skills. They need to master a set of mental tools—tools of the mind…

At the core of Vygotsky’s theory (also known as Cultural-Historical theory) is the idea that child development is the result of interactions between children and their social environment. These interactions involve people—parents and teachers, playmates and schoolmates, brothers and sisters. They also involve cultural artifacts, such as books or toys, as well as culturally specific practices in which a child engages in the classroom, at home, or on the playground. Children are active partners in all of these interactions, constructing knowledge, skills, and attitudes, not just mirroring the world around them. Essentially, the history and the culture of the society in which a child grows up and the events making up a child’s personal history determine much more than what that child knows or likes—it also determines which mental tools the child will learn and how these tools will shape the child’s mind.

I was sure this post was getting much too preachy and not really getting anywhere when I came upon this article about the “Most Extraordinary Lego Creations You’ve Ever Seen” about a book of MOC Legos. Go take a peek. I’ll still be here when you get back.

You see, the reason that I’m particularly interested in this building instinct that we seem to have is not just grandparents’ pride (yes, he is brilliant; that is very very clear, but that goes without saying.

Too often.),

but about timing.

We read about Noah and his ark-building project this week in the Torah portion. And on the flip side, there’s the Babel Tower Project. One lonely man of faith and one mean group of politicians businessmen who just want to build the biggest tower in Creation. Noah is chided for not reaching out to the masses to get them to change their wicked ways, and he falls apart afterwards with the reality of responsibility for building up society.

The groupthink? Yeah, that doesn’t go so well, either. What goes wrong there? The task is more important than the people, in short. How are these minds shaped? To what purpose?

There’s also, from Fast Company, an article called “Can Playing With Legos Make You More Creative?”

I think they miss the point.

Playing is the work that we should be doing all along.

Okay, maybe they do get it subliminally.

Why exactly creativity measures are declining is still anyone’s guess, although evidence and intuition points to the growing emphasis on testing in education as a factor. Kids are taught to learn by understanding “the one right answer” they need to find, and what they need to do to find it. (On tests of how kids do at brainstorming ideas, 98% of three-year-olds register as “creative geniuses.” By the time they are 25? Only 2%).

Here’s how I play:)

IMG_20130726_131934_707 IMG_1923 DSC_0028 DSC_0033 DSC_0357 DSC_0009

So, the MOTS, once again, is:

כא  הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב (וְנָשׁוּבָה), חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם. 21 Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

you can probably see where this is going, but

You should still see it to the end.

I saw this link on Neatorama on Facebook, but actually took the time to watch it now via this link on TYWKIWDBI.

An achingly evocative video posted by Miss Cellania at Neatorama, where a commenter noted that the 792,000 thai bahts are equivalent to about 25,000 USD or 19,000 EUR or 16,000 GBP.

It’s also a reminder that the financial problems contingent on life support and major medical catastrophes are not limited to the United States.

An amazing example of what we can accomplish together.

the need to remember

Especially today.

This week.

I see that I do write a lot about remembering; memory. Is that because I’m getting old(er) and all I have is my memories? Or just that there’s more to remember?

Or that I know that it is valuable to take lessons from the past.

So let’s go with that.

But today, I hear and read so many people’s accounts of what they were doing 12 years ago. And also, this Saturday is Yom Kippur and the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

Maybe I’ll talk about my memories of the day 40 years ago another time.

I remember both very well. I am trying to figure out a line of connections between them.

That’s perhaps too easy. They are both about people choosing violence as a way of expressing themselves, not about getting something they want. Or is expressing themselves what they want?

Is that enough?

Not through violence. Not through fear. Not through imposing your will upon others.

I remember being at school 12 years ago, hearing just bits of what was going on and trying to figure out what to do with the children. How do we keep the children safe? I remember that the director of my preschool was new that year and this was her first test.

She didn’t pass.

She didn’t deal with it well. I’m not even sure what she did, but I remember the extreme pain on her face, while gathering everyone together. I really don’t remember; did we dismiss early from school? Did we just go on? How could we?

I do remember dealing with ISHI and with D#1 who was pregnant and unable to contact her husband, who worked in the twin towers. He had been late that morning, not unusual for him, but no, he had not gotten a phone call telling him to be late. I think that’s one of the urban legends how the Jews knew to not come in that morning.

But he was trapped in the subway tunnels underground, unable to get cell service, unable to reach her. Somehow, slowly, he did, she did, and we did reach each other.

The anxiety of the morning was what I will never forget. The details are not as important.

The lessons of what we must remember?

Here is what one woman says about it, from the Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo News:

“My friends and I, days and years after, after the smoke cleared, and we would say to each other, that day made a hole,” says Anoopa Singh, a recent college grad now preparing to begin a graduate degree in neuroscience. “And we didn’t just mean in the skyline. There was a hole in all of us: There was like an innocence that was missing, there were buildings missing, there was iconography missing.”

We must remember that something is missing. We must remember that the world is broken; we need to work much harder to fix things. It’s a necessary reality (I won’t say evil; it just is) that we need such days to remember the holes.

from our trip to the Statue of Liberty last August 2012

from our trip to the Statue of Liberty, August 2012

But what are we going to do about it?

renewing ourselves, once again

I’m spending this week with grandchild #10. His parents have moved into town and left. (Just for the week.) I have custody during the days, and the other grandparents have him at night. I think this is a very fair deal. He’s napping now, so I get to write. Also a fair deal.

At the playground earlier, it came to me that this is a very good way to renew myself at this time of year, at this time of life. I wrote about this not so long ago here, of the ability of some to be ever amazed at the world, like a child. I was reminded of this while pushing our little one on the baby swing. He was so happy to go back and forth and back and forth…I tried to take him out after about 5 minutes, but he was visibly not ready to leave this. So I girded myself to push him for another 5 minutes or more. And he was agreeable when I tried the next time to take him out.

I realized at that moment that we make ourselves so complicated. And I thought about my still-full refrigerators with food prepared for the 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, followed by Shabbat. Of course, I try to re-purpose food, so that one food gets used in 3 different presentations.

The soup I made, for example, for Shabbat, was from the cold sweet potato-carrot-cauliflower soup from last week (un-frozen), mixed with the leftover tzimmis (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and onions, but no meat for you!) from the first night, with red lentils cooked in. So that was a good way to repurpose things.


We had left our overhead fan on in the kitchen, even though, thankfully, it turned cool for the holidays, delightful, really. And when I set up the hot plate over my flame to keep it protected over Shabbat, I thought I was being smart in using my larger tray to protect the flame.

I was, but I was also outsmarting myself.

The soup turned.

The flame was not strong enough with the fan on. It didn’t keep the soup hot enough. I was worried about it and tested it before serving it to our guests.

What a waste of repurposing.

And the bigger thing that I knew?

No one missed the soup. They would have been miserable tasting it, but they didn’t miss it. I had too many other things going on, even in my no-meat house. Really, no one went hungry.

So something is wrong.

We’re too complicated for our own good.

Or maybe we’re too affluent? Insisting on having so many different things, or not wanting to take a chance of people not being happy?

I’m reading Daniel Akst’s book We Have Met the Enemy about the problem of “moderation in the face of freedom and affluence”. I got it out from the library, since I figured the book screams DON’T BUY SOMETHING YOU CAN BORROW! (although he may not have really considered that when writing the book).

He demonstrates how the one who shows us how to navigate through the world of wants is actually Odysseus, who had his sailors chain himself up to his mast to keep him from being lost to the sirens. He calls this precommitment. This, and many other useful facts and strategies, can be found in the book. I’m looking forward to trying them in my own life.

Am I ready to put this onto my guests, though?

What do you think?

how to get rid of a rat

ISHI thought I was thinking the same thing he was, and I was.

He’s been dealing with trying to help someone get a Jewish divorce from her extremely-no-good husband. I cannot tell you how horrible this person is; I can tell you he should not be called a man.

Or a person.

A rat is probably about right, except that it’s insulting to rats.

So ISHI’s been on the phone (since the woman lives in a  very distant community), going from cell phone to home line and numerous emails, texts, etc., trying to get the situation understood by all the parties, trying to get across the urgency of the situation, to not allow the rat to get away, but to take care of him appropriately.

In fact, we had been out of town for the past 2 days on a lovely attempt to get away (I’ll post some photos separately), and we had basically just returned home for him to spend another hour and a half on the phone with 2 different people, when he points a flashlight near me in the kitchen (I was cooking freshly-picked corn) and then shines it onto the floor of our study

pointing out a real creature of our own that we had to now get rid of.

Okay, ours was a mouse. A sick mouse. I had seen it the other day rambling in our kitchen. Thank G0d I was sitting down at the time. I’m not the stand-on-chairs kind of gal, but I don’t like sharing my kitchen with any not human. We knew that this was not a healthy mouse, since it was moving slow enough for me to see it clearly. We have a lot of traps around the house, and it mostly likely had already ingested some poison, so it just a matter of time before it showed up again.

And so it was not surprising that ISHI saw it this time in the study, which is one door away from the kitchen, again, taking its time.  He was on the phone talking about how to get rid of the rat and now we had to figure out how to get rid of the mouse.

Irony not missed.

Getting rid of the mouse was much easier and cleaner than getting rid of this sick rat. There are some people who just don’t get the threat of rats in our midst.