silver linings of polio and other travel tidbits

While searching for some travel items on Amazon, look what I found! I typed in “travel accessories”, in case you want to try it. I’d be curious to see if you come up with similar items.

Product Details

Simran SM-60 Universal Power Strip 3 Outlets for 110V-250V Worldwide Travel with Surge/Overload Protection by Simran

(Okay, that makes sense, but not for my needs. Let’s continue.)

Rick Steves Travel Gear Clothesline by Rick Steves

(Again, okay. I’m skipping the photos, since you get the picture:). It’s a rope.)

iPad Mini 5-in-1 Accessories Bundle Rotating Case for Business and Travel, Green by Gearonic

Product Details

Classic Accessories Fairway Travel 4-sided Golf Car Enclosure (Fits most two-person golf cars) by Classic Accessories (Jan 12, 2009)

(Hmmm. What else is there?)

CTA Digital PS Vita Travel EVA Protective Case with 4x Game Storage Pockets by CTA Digital (Mar 5, 2012)


humangear Gotoob Travel Bottles 3-Pack Medium 2 Ounce by humangear

(Boooring. Wait–I need that.)

Product Details

Pinterest by Pinterest, Inc (Aug 15, 2012)

  • $0.00
  • Available instantly on your connected Android device
  • Get inspiration from DIY, Travel, Food and other categories.
  • Apps for Android: See all 5 items

I think I’ll stop here. I’m not pinterested. (Sorry.)

I did order a few things for myself in preparation for my travels next week.

I made the reservations back in August, but it’s really hard to wrap my head around it that I’m actually taking off. Now, how to pack for over 2 months with one suitcase and lots of different weather possibilities? Australia was a breeze compared to this.

Israel is a complex country, in case you hadn’t heard. (I’m not going to discuss politics now. Enough people are doing an awful job of it without me joining in.)

Even the weather is complex. It can be gorgeous in the winter; it can also snow. We pray for rain in the winter. I will be there for long enough to have to really mean it. So I have my waterproof boots and shoes (yes, the 7 1/2 in the Land’s End actually is the right size, thankfully). I have layers. Enough to make an archaeological dig.

But I think I’ll skip the golf cart enclosure, although perhaps, if it rains enough, I may regret my decision.

Oh–the title?

Of course, you may have read about a polio outbreak in Syria and in Israel last month. I did, too, but I didn’t actually process that it may refer to me. Even though the Israeli healthcare system (the US should really take better notes) has taken care of it pretty well, it still could be lingering in certain areas. And should I take a risk or not?

I called my doctor and asked should I get a booster shot for polio? Does my blood work show if I am immune? Do you have on record that I had polio as a child? Please make sure to tell the doctor that fact–am I more susceptible because of it, like chickenpox/shingles, or does it create immunity?

Well, in the realm of the added unexpected, the nurse called back to say that the doctor said I was immune because of having it as a child.


Who ever thought that would come in handy some day?


winter approaches slowly slowly

We went back to the museum yesterday, this time with my father and sister. How quickly things change.

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Today, we went for another walk and it felt positively balmy. Yes, gratitude is here, too.

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We just finished eating dinner. The men went off to the synagogue for evening prayer time. Before dinner, I lit two yahrzeit candles on behalf of my father, one for his mother and one for his older cousin, who was like a brother to him. They share the date of their death, convenient for my father not to mourn more than he wants for both of them. While I was making dinner, and on the subject at hand, I gave him a book to read, and opened it up to the chapter that I had written about my mother and my reciting kaddish for her. I figured it was the best time to bring it up. 

But of course, as I was washing my veggies for salad, I thought maybe I had written something not to complimentary about him in there and maybe I should have reviewed it beforehand. After all, it had been a few months already since I had re-read it. And so much has happened since then.

I needn’t have worried. He was very moved by the chapter. But I still wonder if it was because he was open to the experience or if it was what I had written. A bit of melancholy will stay with me for a while, I think.

So I have to search for the gratitude forcefully.





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.

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do i wish we could all re-set?

The other day, I went to my Verizon phone store, the one with the guy who could not be more helpful last year. I really needed his help again with my smart-allecky-phone. It was sending me text messages what seemed to be every 15 minutes from 6250 with the message VZWNMN:1. I finally figured out it was every time I received an email. Of course, I tried looking online first. Of course, I tried calling for tech back-up. They said I should just delete my email and then re-set it. I did not want to do that. I didn’t see how that would help with texts. And I just didn’t trust them. I didn’t have a personal connection and I didn’t think that they would succeed, even/especially since the online conversations concluded that they had no idea what they were doing, and even though they said it was all fixed.

So the visit.

When I entered the store, I waited just a little while for my guy to be available, but he had never heard of this before. He wasn’t giving up so easily. He also spent what seemed like an hour on the phone with Verizon tech support, But while he was we were waiting, I was also observing all kinds of other things going on. There was an interesting parade of customers. I would group them in two groups.

First, come the women without a clue.

I was, of course, one of them.

There was the woman who, from the back, looked like an overeager twenty-something, dressed in what I’m sure she thought was the highest of fashion and money. Probably the money was right. She came to ask why her phone was so slow and you can delete messages? And as you can figure out, once she turned around, I saw a woman (I think) older than me, but made me think– was I pretending to be so much younger than I am and who was I kidding? When she left, my guy said, “She’s one of our regulars. But I see that you knew that, didn’t you?”

I did. They were so very kind to her and they were being so very kind to me. I appreciated that even more.

Then there was another woman who came in to buy an Iphone, since she figured it was time for her to have one along with her husband and daughter, but she really didn’t need to have so many things on it, since she wasn’t going to use them, but shouldn’t she have the same thing and maybe she would have use of them? And I remembered that was me when I bought my smartphone last year.

Then come the men with no patience.  Need I say more? Neither did he. I think he likes talking with the ladies.

There was a TV on showing For Rent on HGTV. I do not have cable and I was not familiar with that show beforehand. I don’t think I’m going to look to watch it again, but it was there, so…

What was particularly interesting was that the real estate agent was obviously very pregnant. That’s a good thing to see that a woman can work and be pregnant and not hide behind a couch. Her name is Jody Gilmour, and I see from the google that she has been pregnant twice while filming the series, leading people to believe she’s perpetually with child.

My guy turns to the screen and then says, “Wow! She’s really pregnant, isn’t she? I don’t like to say that to a woman because I could be very wrong and that wouldn’t be good, but that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

We women in the store agreed that it was a good idea not to mention it first.

He then went onto telling us how his wife is due with twins this February and they are nervous because nothing is wrong. With their first baby, she had a lot of false positive tests which led them to believe that their baby would have all kinds of developmental problems and disabilities. They couldn’t believe that things would go so well because they realized how Complicated Life Is.

And if he hadn’t said “It’s a miracle that things usually go so well” first, I would have said it. But I assured him that I completely agree.

In the end, he decided that the only way to fix my phone was to re-set it completely.

But we know that it’s much more than that, don’t we?

happy birthday, little one

Our #10 is one-year-old today. We (and by that, I mean I) bought him a tractor. On the steering wheel, there’s a button in the middle that you can push to play a very mild-mannered Old MacDonald, and another one to simulate the start-up noise of a tractor. Our little one enjoyed the music but wasn’t as moved by it as he was when he actually belts out a tune on the piano. Maybe I’m over-thinking here, but maybe it’s because he really prefers action. When he does use the piano that we have at our house, I make sure that I move and shake to show that hey! You can move to music! It’s to the point now when he’ll play and look up at me to make sure that I am.

Boy, are kids smart.

Here’s a good example of that.

I got here via TWKIWDBI, but I’m showing the one on Youtube. You can turn on the English captions on the bottom. They’re not timed particularly well, but I think you’ll get the message, even without the translation.

Kitchen dancing, anyone?

the myth of sisyphus vs. groundhog day while raking leaves once again

There is one spot in our front yard that jams me up with strong emotions while raking leaves every year. I’ve written about it here and here.

Today, again, as I was in that same spot, I was determined to figure out more about this, with a new challenge that our family is now facing.

Was it the absurdity of Camus’ Sisyphus or was it Groundhog Day?

Would I be able to learn anything from it?

Or would it be a third way, just getting through the task at hand. Nothing to learn here, folks.

I’m hoping for the Groundhog option.  Let’s go with my search for meaning.

But I can show a bit of the absurd side.

Here is a tree that was severed from itself. But does it still get called a tree?

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when your day starts with fire engines,

You can be pretty sure the rest of it has to be action-packed to keep up.

Or just built on irony, in my case.

My summer group was having breakfast in the synagogue social hall when an ear-splitting alarm went off. Fire alarm, I guess. No smoke detected by us, so we went to see what was going on.

False alarm. The custodian was dusting.

Hah! That proves that housework is hazardous!

He didn’t realize that the vacuum cleaner was jammed and letting out all the dust into the air.

Near the fire detector.

Nevertheless a false alarm, we all traipsed outside to avoid listening to it, waiting for the caravan of rescue vehicles to save us from the dust.

When the first fire truck arrived (after the fire captain and police cars) and the firefighters walked to the building, we did a little cheer for them. One of them said to us,

“Remember, layering is the key to fighting hyperthermia!”

I answered he’d be happy he’s wearing all his layers to fight the air conditioning inside the building.

All clear, we could resume our day.

Later on, I felt like I was recreating  the “who’s on first?” comedy routine that was anything but routine as I went through with an Expedia agent to find out if a certain hotel in Brooklyn allows pets. We wanted to stay in Brooklyn for after a wedding we have in a few weeks. Almost all the cool hotels in Brooklyn are very pet-friendly. Expedia online did not indicate that they do accept pets at this one place, but they didn’t say that they didn’t, either.

I’m allergic to dogs and cats and find it very uncomfortable to spend money to be sneezing. I can do that for free.

“Does this hotel allow you to have pets? I”m allergic and can’t be with them.”

“Please wait one moment and I’ll check. You will hear silence for a moment, so do not be alarmed.”
(Maybe she didn’t say that last line. But that’s what was on my mind from the rest of the day.)

“I’m sorry. They do not allow pets. They are not a pet-friendly hotel.”

“Good! I don’t want them to be friendly! I want them to be anti-friendly!”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I thought you wanted pets.”

“No, I wanted to make sure they don’t have them. I’m allergic. I sneeze when they are around.”

“Oh. I thought you wanted pet-friendly.”

“No, I might want pets, but I can’t have them. This is good that they don’t allow pets. Okay?”

This went on for a few minutes more. We agreed that we are happy to be unfriendly and we booked a room.

And then there was the thing with the alarm in the evening.

All the doors in our synagogue except the main door are alarmed to make sure that they are closed properly and to make sure that children don’t escape. The kitchen door is alarmed so that squirrels don’t get in. Kids don’t really count there. There was someone going in and out of the door without issue, bringing food into the building. Then, when he was going out to leave, the alarm went off.

What’s going on?

Again, this evening, I went out the unalarmed door without problem. When I closed the door, the alarm went off.

Something alarming is definitely in the air!

So what should we do about it?


Bring it on, world. I can laugh about it all!

Repairing the World in a different real kind of way

Why did the repair man check on his repairs?

That’s pretty unusual, in my experience. He came back to see if everything was in working order, which, thank G-d, it was. But then he asked:

“Can I ask you a question, or should I ask the rabbi?”

Okay, shoot.

“Of course. If I don’t know, I’ll be very happy to tell you that.” I’d be happy to tell him that the rabbi might not know, either, but I didn’t.

“You see, my sister just had a baby, and they had the bris (circumcision) just last week. They named him [I really didn’t hear him correctly, but let’s say] Pete after our mother.”

Last week, when he was fixing the fridge, he told me how his parents were married in our shul when it was a brand-new reform temple. And also how his mother died last year and it’s been a hard year.

“The problem is that it wasn’t the exact name. She gave a beautiful explanation how the name is to remember our mother, but…”

“Let me guess–your father isn’t happy that you didn’t use the exact name.”

Except I’m thinking it’s a boy, so really, was he thinking they would?

“Exactly. And my sister wanted to know where exactly in Scriptures does it say that you have to name someone after someone else?”

“Oh, it doesn’t say it anywhere. I don’t know how late of a custom it is. And you know, the Sephardic Jews name after their living relatives, with a pretty specific order.”

Blank face.

“It’s a good question, how late of a custom is it. But it’s a very nice custom, to remember the departed.”

(Well, that was easy enough to look at:

Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe had a strong tradition that mandated that a baby be named after a deceased relative. It is important to understand that this is a tradition, and is not codified in Jewish law.

No evidence of such a tradition appears in the Bible, in which most names are unique. The custom seems to have started in the first and second century CE, and to have become entrenched by the 12th century. By the 12th century in Europe, we find given names repeating every other generation within families, as a baby was typically named for a grandfather or grandmother. Generally, the child was named for the closest deceased relative for whom no one else in that immediate family was already named. Highest priority goes to the child’s mother, if she had died in childbirth, or the father, if he had died before the baby was born.

If any of the four grandparents were deceased, a baby would be named after one of them; otherwise the great-grandparents or, perhaps, a sibling of one of the parents. During the 19th century in Eastern Europe, a girl was typically named after a female relative, a boy after a male relative. Usually, a baby was not given the same name as a sibling who had previously died, although some cases of this have been seen.

Ashkenazim (Jews from Eastern Europe) do not name babies after living relatives. Sephardim (Jews from Iberia and the Middle East), on the other hand, name their children in honor of living grandparents, usually in a fixed order. The first son is named for the father’s father, the first daughter for the father’s mother. The next son is named in honor of his mother’s father and the second girl for her maternal grandmother.)

“And my mother, G-d rest her soul (I don’t remember if he said that, but it feels that that would have been an appropriate place for someone to say such a thing.), had been sick with cancer for over 20 years. She always said that all she wanted was to see her baby grow up and graduate from college. But she even got to see her get married, so that was more than we could ever expect.”

No, we can always expect more. We just have to realize that we aren’t going to get it most of the time.

“So what was the name again?”

“Zachary. Because our mother was so kind and considerate and so full of love.”

“Actually, Zachary comes from the root “remember”, so it’s a wonderful name to remember your mother with.”

Whatever her name really was; whatever they actually are calling the baby.

“Tell your sister to print up what she said at the bris and give it to your father. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled and come to love the name.”

“I think I will.”

“So can you fix the oven doors now?”

“Oh, no, I’m too busy fixing air conditioners. What a crazy season it’s been.”

unhounding from the media

We are planning a little getaway this weekend. ISHi is speaking at another synagogue  a few hours drive, so we’ll go there for Shabbat and stay on for  a few more days nearby. It’s been an intense couple of months since we’ve been back from our big trip down under. The holidays are enough stress (in all the ways stress is good and sometimes not so good, if you’re not careful about how you handle it) without the extras of the last couple of weeks living in New England.

So going away is good.

But as we made the plans of the place to stay and the people to see, we both, without saying it, realized that we are already away.

We live in a beautiful town. No one else is here in the house. We can choose whether or not to answer the phone,

the email,

the cellphone,

the door.

We can choose our outfits and our shoes at last minute

and change them afterwards, if we choose. And we don’t have to worry about luggage limits or security or lines or worrying about how much to tip the bellhop, the chambermaid, the waiter.

And we don’t have to worry about what to eat or where to eat or what to bring. And we can change our minds about that, too.

We can walk 15 minutes from our doorstep to this.



And when we go away, we’re still hounded by the media.

Many years ago, when we were in Israel up north at the Banias waterfall, ISHI’s phone went off. The roar of the waterfall made it hard to hear, but the call was quite clear. A congregant had died and we couldn’t do anything about it. Well, he could arrange for someone else to officiate at the funeral, but he felt awful.

That wasn’t the last time we were away when someone died. It happens.

That can’t be what holds you back from going away, the what-if.

But really, why go away?

Because you go away from yourself.

Your patterns, your habits, your same ol’ same ol’.

You take a different perspective.

Shabbat should do that. And it does, to a point. But not so much for a working stiff like ISHI.

So we will be grateful we can leave a beautiful place to go to somewhere differently beautiful

and be a bit refreshed.

But if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish packing. Now where are my brown heels and where are my hiking boots?