Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yay Auntie A!

Just want to thank my friend who took the children apple picking today, since I am sick and my husband has an injured foot. I don't know if she took any pictures, but if so I'll try to post some afterwards.

The real meaning of a kosher home

One of the most kosher Shabbat meals I ever ate was at the home of my cousin whose family has not been observant in many generations. My cousin Claire and her husband live on an island off of an island off of Vancouver - it takes a mini-plane and a ferry to get there. We met over a genealogy website, and she invited me to come visit one summer when I was in college.

Although she has no connection to kashrut or Shabbat, she asked me extensive questions and made it a top priority to make sure everything was done right. She bought me an entire set of dishes and cooking items, and bought anything in their tiny general store that had a hechsher. We made a Shabbat meal, and sat up watching the candles and talking. Again, although she has no personal interest in observance, she made many positive comments and nothing negative, and this is her general approach to life as well. (For example, instead of using terms like "ultra-orthodox," she says "enthusiastic" which I feel conveys a really positive attitude.)

Now, let me tell you about one of the most traif Shabbat meal I attended. It was at the home of a rabbi who would later steal $3000 from my husband. This person was considered fairly high up in his yeshiva, and was the rav of the local shul. He spent the entire meal criticizing and ranting about all sorts of Jewish people, with a real hatred in his voice. He had complaints about women, including ranting at his teenage daughter about wanting to go to Israel after high school. He and his family did nothing the whole meal to make me feel welcome in their home, since I had never met them before, but instead just ignored me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fantastic website for the New Year

Project Forgiveness - for people to send in videos or posts about forgiveness.

(Thanks to Orthonomics for the link)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bad Advice

There's a comment in Orthonomics's post today talking about how people give really bad financial advice to young couples, and write off any common-sense questions with answers like "everybody has credit card debt."

We went through this so many times when we were first married, and I truly feel that choosing to stay part of the frum world at that time and listen to that advice is the cause of 90% of the issues we are dealing with 7 years later. Then yesterday, we got a re-run (only this time we know better).

My father-in-law has been ill for quite some time and just had surgery. I get exactly enough vacation days to cover yomtov (actually, I am short a day and my boss and I work around it). My husband is the full-time parent at home plus works from home. We don't have relatives or anyone else here who can watch the kids long-term. And, we are in major debt and have no spending money. So, we have not flown out to see either set of parents since we moved here.

Last night a rabbi from my father-in-law's community (who we have no relationship with) called and yelled at my husband about not coming to see his father. He did not offer to pay for a ticket or come up with any other realistic solutions of how this could be arranged, he just said that my husband "had to". Then they had the following conversation:

DH: I don't have the money to pay for a ticket.
Rabbi: Don't you have anyone you could borrow from?
DH: We're already $60,000 in debt. I'm not borrowing more money.
Rabbi: Well I'm $150,000 in debt!

So in other words, because he makes poor financial decisions, everyone else should too. (Oddly enough, this is almost an exact statement from another rabbi who gave us the horrible advice 7 years ago. He went on and on about how much credit card debt he had, when we had come for advice on how to deal with our own debt problem - which was primarily caused by listening to his illogical advice in the first place.)

We are fortunate that my DH has come a long way in being able to see through poor advice and call it for what it is. I have to imagine the person meant well, somehow, but this was compeletly unacceptable.

(My sister-in-law didn't stand up for herself, and a few months ago she was "informed" by a different rabbi in the same community that he had bought her a ticket to visit the parents for a week. She has 7 children, and had to leave the teenagers in charge of the family. She also works, but this was not taken into consideration by the person who arranged it.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Random list (a few days late)

My parents just left after spending the summer here, so I haven't been online this week. So here's the random list for last week, 3 embarrassing parenting moments. In reverse order, starting with the one this weekend:

1. We were at a school get-together this weekend, and since I am still having difficulty meeting people after 3 years, I hoped to talk to some of the parents. I was sitting at the table and a woman I recognized, who is very snobby, sat down with her kid A., who is in my son's class. Just then my son comes up and says, "Oh no!" in a really exasperated voice. I asked him to whisper to me what was wrong. Instead, he says in a normal voice "I was hoping to get a day without A. bothering me! She's so annoying!" Luckily this woman is probably so snobby that she wasn't fully paying attention to me or my kid, but she definitely heard him.

2. At a family fun day event last year, they set up one of those giant inflatable climbing things, where the kid has to go over things, under things, and then climb up and slide down. I do my best not to be like my mom with these kinds of things - she would never let us do anything with even the remotest bit of challenge or climbing involved. But my son is also not extremely athletic, so when I saw other parents going in with their kids, I decided to go with him in case he got stuck. We got to the part where you climb up, and I just couldn't do it! My son went ahead, the other kids behind us went ahead, and I just could not get up the wall. To make it worse, at some point I realized that my skirt was caught and if anyone was behind the slide they got a view. (And it could have been people from our school.) I finally had to yell for someone to let me out the emergency exit.

3. When my son was little, we used to do silly rhymes like baby-waby, mommy-wommy, etc. We went in for his preschool conference, and the teacher told us that he had given some odd answers when she asked him to name words that rhyme. He had said "dog-wog" and "cat-wat."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not serious about poverty

I've been noticing lately that Jonathan Rosenblum seems to be a rational voice on Cross-Currents, and has started getting very direct about some of the problems in the Charedi world.

So I was really interested in reading today's article, "Can we talk seriously about poverty?"

He gives an extensive discussion of why poverty is horrible, especially for Torah life: shalom bayis problems, bad shidduchim based on money, children associating poverty with Torah, more likelihood of falling for con men or even falling into criminal business dealings oneself....really fantastic points. He even says that it's very bad to get used to taking charity from others, and that it is unrealistic to continue expecting wealthy Jews in America to support Charedim in Israel.

Then I get to the end, to the part where it is supposed to say that it's time for everyone to get jobs, right? I mean, that's the whole point of saying that we need to get out of poverty and stop relying on others.

Shockingly, he doesn't even say one sentence about getting jobs! His conclusion is "What the solutions might be I do not know. But it is clear that we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand and not address the issue."

Um...How does not getting jobs address the issue????

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Random Wednesday - 8/27/08 (And Yes, I KNOW It's Thursday...)

We missed doing this yesterday. Tying into my previous post, we're doing 3 memories relating to elections, world events, politics, etc. But my lst is specifically about elections:

1. Voting for legal marijuana for medical reasons, President Clinton, and against proposition 187 (California ballot)- voted absentee in my college dorm room.

2. Anyone ever hear the Capitol Steps? They did parody songs about politics. I particularly remember a skit they did about Gary Hart where they switched the first letters of words, so they called him a "gorny huy". My brother and I may not have understood a lot of what they were talking about but they were really funny!

3. The ridiculous election for California governor. We had a porn star, Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt, and about 100 other candidates on the ballot. And the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger won is also pretty crazy. (I'm not even talking about political views, just the idea that of all people he's the one who won.)

Here's DH's Random Wednesday.

Historic Events

What is the earliest historic event you were aware of? I was thinking about this last night when I called in my 6-year-old to see Hillary nominate Obama. The minute I saw her getting ready to speak for New York, I knew it was going to be an important moment so I made him leave his TV show to come watch. The whole election is probably the first world event that he is aware of.

The earliest I remember is getting our Weekly Readers in 2nd grade with info about the 1984 candidates. They were very benign, talking about things like the candidates hobbies. (I bet I still have it around my parents' house somewhere...) Although I don't remember any other specific "events" from that election, I know I was aware that Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman running for vice president.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Updating links - Jewish blogs

(I wrote this last week but never finished updating the links. In the spirit of “just jump right in where you are”, I’m going to put up this post even though it doesn’t exactly match what I have on the right side of the page.)

I'm starting to update the links on the side of this page. I haven't been to most of these in a while, and was sorry to see that the Kallah Magazine blog is gone (or appears to be). Anyone know what happened to that one? She had a lot of good insights about the frum world as well as some humor.

As I do this, I'll write a little about the links I've selected.

I'm seperating my links into a few categories, starting with blogs that (tend to) focus on the frum world. As I mentioned, I don't tend to read many of these blogs regularly anymore, and it looks like some of them are no longer regularly updated. (RenReb and Krum haven't posted in quite a while.) Ask Shifra has become more about her personal experiences, but I think of her as part of the "J-Blog" world so I am leaving her there.

I'm moving DovBear up and Rabbi Maryles down on the list order. One of the only blogs I still read regularly, DovBear always has some fascinating information, and he is always open to response and guest posting. My husband has been one of his guest posters on several occassions, and corresponds with him sometimes.

Rabbi Maryles' blog was one of the first I started reading, and at that time I was thrilled to read someone with an outlook similar to my own. Unfortunately, his comments are pretty much hujacked by a small but vocal group of people and I don't feel that there is any purpose to joining in the discussion. Also, he tends to focus on what he perceives as the problems (most of which I agree) but I've come to disagree with his perspective on what the solutions are. He feels strongly that the future of yiddishkeit is only with the Charedim, and that therefore any solution has to start with them changing. Well, they're not going to change just because he wants them to, and in the meantime I feel the solution is more in becoming part of a strong Centrist community that makes the changes and doesn't worry about what the Charedim are doing. But I do continue to read his blog periodically, as he does discuss some current events that I am not aware of.

Wolfish Musings and Rabbi Student have both had some great stuff. The Wolf tends to be mor elight-hearted even when pointing out things that are negative. Rabbi Student's blog is more like articles, but some of his topics are very interesting. Of course, he is also important for becoming the publisher for Rabbi Slifkin (whose link I will need to look up and add here!)

Don't worry, I havne't forgotten about Orthonomics, it will get its own post tomorrow!

P.S. Right now I am just rearranging links that I already had listed - I will definitely be adding quite a bit over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Wednesday - 8/20/08

Hi, everyone! DH and I have decided to have some fun. We're going to present a weekly random list of three things on our respective blogs. Visit DH for this week's list. Some of our items will overlap. Thanks to Cool Yiddishe Mama for the inspiration.

Subject of week: Three random places I've visited.

1. On our cross-country trip, we stopped at mall in West Des Moines, Iowa, which is basically the Beverly Hills of Iowa. The mall was huge, fancy, and it felt like we were at the Beverly Center in LA, except for one thing: Every person in the ENTIRE mall was blond and white. The most colorful it got was us.

2. I spent Shabbat in Neve Yaakov, Israel, from where one may CLOSELY observe Jordan right out the bedroom window. Right before I left to catch the bus to get there, my friend said, "Oh, don't worry if they throw rocks at the bus on your way up!"

3. On the spur of the moment, I went on a road trip from Boston, MA to New Haven, CT to help a friend find an apartment. What makes this interesting is it was literally a random road trip. My friend approached me and said, "Wanna go to New Haven?" and I said, "Sure!" and we got in the car and went!

Daily Plans

Here's what I would like to get done every day:
* Evening routine (eat dinner, shower, lay out clothes and lunch for next day)
* Tidy up the house, get a load of laundry ready for DH to do the next day, and declutter for 15 minutes
* Do at least one task with our paperwork on the desk
* Make some phone calls or send some e-mail messages
* Clear out some e-mail from my inbox because I have a backlog, and also read some of the daily comics that we get by e-mail
* Go through some of our photos to make online albums or send out pictures

Here's what really happens after work (especially in the summer when I dopn't get home until about 7:00):
* Spend time with the kids and eat dinner
* Tuck in son and take a shower (since both are upstairs)
* Kind of think about what I want to wear tomorrow
* Tidy up the bathroom and my bedroom (also upstairs)
* Think about how I want to clean up or send some e-mail
* Watch TV with DH until we're so tired that we head to bed

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy birthday to Mommy and baby

Well, he's not a baby anymore! My little boy is six - and going into first grade!

He loves that we have the same birthday. Of course, my little girl decided it was her birthday today too.

We got the class lists, and he's in a different class than his three best friends. So since he doesn't have anything positive to say about the kids who are in his class, we're skipping the birthday party. We're having a get-together with our best friends (whose daughter is one of the three kids he likes), and then maybe taking him and the other two kids somewhere at some point. (Can you tell we haven't put too much thought into this yet?)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fun WIth The Kids

We work special summer hours (if we want) at my job, where we add an hour during the week and get to leave at 1:00 on Friday. I am also in a salary position, so if I work overtime I don't get any extra pay. I was in charge of a major project in the spring and beginning of the summer, where I was staying very late every day.

A few weeks ago my boss offered me an entire Friday off as a thank you for my work on the project. So on Friday our family went to this great place called Memphis Kiddie Park. It's set up like a carnival, with a merry go round, various rides where the kids go around in a circle (in boats, planes, rocket ships, etc.), ferris wheel, and train ride for the whole family around the park. It's a little bit of a drive, but it's a great value because there is no admission fee. You just buy tickets for the rides, and if you don't use them they are still good the next time you come. (We actually had an entire book of tickets from last year, so we didn't have to pay anything this time.)

The kids had a fantastic time, although after we mistakenly let them have the oversized popsicles my daughter got really cranky. The park does something smart - they keep a notebook with the labels form all their ice cream desserts, so people who have kashrut or dietary concerns can review what's available.

Cookies and Ice Cream

My husband ought those cookies with the chocolate dot in the middle. I ate these growing up, and it's too bad to see yet another product become poorly and cheaply made. They are smaller, the cookie part is dry, and there is almost no chocolate. My husband and I both remember how we used to eat around the outside, then bite off the cookie part on the bottom and then eat the chocolate. Now it's all just dry cookie.

On the other hand, we just discovered a fantastic ice cream flavor - Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter ice cream.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Job - Part One

As you may know, I started this blog while I was job-hunting in 2006-07. I started my current position in April of 2007. At the time, the positives of the job were:

1. Amazing and professional-acting boss.

2. Welcoming attitude (from my boss) about the weird schedule I would need for holidays and leaving early Fridays.

3. The possibility (stated by my boss) that she’d have me develop in the position over time.

4. The fact that someone was offering me a job with health insurance after I had been led on by my previous temp job for a year.

The negatives were:

1. The location – The quickest I can commute is about 35 minutes, and some days it has taken me an hour. The neighborhood is a bad one, we can’t take a walk at lunch, and the building itself is pretty gross.

2. At the time I was hired, my boss’s boss did not agree with her about developing my position. He forced her to take back the salary she had mentioned at the interview and offer $3K less. (One of the first things I knew about how amazing my boss was – she was honest with me about this when she made the job offer, and found an opportunity for me to make commissions on a small project to try to get back some of this amount.)

3. The job itself is primarily office assistant, AKA lowest person on the totem pole. Anything that no one else wants to do ends up being my responsibility. There had also been some people laid off very quickly in the past who did not have the chance to leave any sort of record about how we deal with certain issues or who our vendors are, so a lot of the things I was asked involved the extra step of figuring that out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to Blogging

Whenever I’d tried keeping a diary or daily calendar, I always get stuck as soon as I miss a few days. I keep thinking that I’ll go back and fill in the missing days, and end up getting more and more behind and then give up. It’s kind of been the same with this blog. I have a ton of saved items that I meant to blog about, just waiting for me to write some thoughts and put them up. Instead, as FlyLady says, I’ll just jump in where I am and get started again.

The topics I’d mostly like to focus on for this blog are the things that are going on in my life: workplace and job search issues, getting out of debt, children's school situations, and handling issues with our parents. I have shifted a lot of my blog reading from the “what’s wrong with the frum world” blogs to primarily business and personal finance. Although I may want to discuss a few issues from an Orthodox perspective (especially as relate to finances), there are several high-quality blogs that I have included on the side panel that really cover anything I would say myself. (Note: I do need to do a major update of my blogroll, as I believe some of these are no longer active and I have found quite a number of new blogs that I’d like to share with everyone.)

Thanks for reading - I will try to post several times a week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Post from Career Encouragement blog

Besides thinking that SephardiLady will enjoy reading this, here were some good points from the post:

- Cheap isn't necessarily frugal. If you're paying a lot of money for mediocre service, and switch to something less expensive, great. But if you are getting a great product, you should think whether that's the item in your budget to spend less on or whether you should instead leave that alone and cut somewhere else.

- We want to be paid a fair wage for the work we do, and receive a raise over time. But when other people raise their prices, we get angry. Again, if you don't think you're getting a good value, then switch to a cheaper service. But if the person is doing an excellent job for you, they might deserve to be paid more just as you would want to be.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Love your fellow Jew

It really bothers me when Jewish people don't feel a connection to other Jews, ad instead look for why they are different.

Aish put out this short movie, which makes the point that there are so few of us around, so we'd better just love each other instead of looking for division.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Appreciation Day

Kelly from FLYLady sent out a challenge to show our appreciation to other:

Dear Friends,

When was the last time that you expressed your appreciation for
excellent service? Have you had an great experience with someone that
just went above and beyond for you? You may have said thank you and
really made sure that person knew that you appreciated them, but you
can take it to the next level.

I challenge all of you to write a note or call a supervisor of someone
that has given you great service and make sure they know what a great
job that person is doing. There is nothing better for a supervisor or
an employee to receive that kind of acknowledgment.

Take a few minutes today to share your appreciation of great service.
If it was three weeks ago or yesterday, doesn't matter, it is never
too late to tell someone thanks you. It could be the grocery store
clerk, the UPS person, your hair dresser, a department store clerk
etc. Anyone that has really made you feel that you were important
even if they had been at work for 12 hours and were so tired, they
still gave you incredible service. Thank you's, gestures of gratitude
and appreciation are few and far between these days - you will feel
great, the supervisor will feel great and most importantly the person
that helped you will know that they are truly appreciated and very
special. This is another way of Paying it Forward.

Have a great day!


Saturday, February 09, 2008


I am trying to figure out how to put these on the side of the blog. In the meantime, I found these cute charts on

Lilypie 6th to 18th Ticker

Lilypie 3rd Birthday Ticker

Friday, February 08, 2008

Why People Don't Bother To Vote...

People denied the vote in New Mexico - they were unprepared for people to actually exercise their right to vote, so there were not enough ballots or polling locations.

And this has nothing to do with a fixed election, since it was only the Democratic primary. (The Republican is held later, according to the article.) Although, their own governor was a candidate until recently, so maybe they figured everyone would vote for him?

This is the real reason people don't go to vote. Why should I take time away from work, or pay a baby-sitter, or whatever other inconvenience, only to stand in line forever and then find out that my vote may not even have been counted because of incompetence? I had a number of issues over the last few elections that were only resolved because my father is active in politics and so I knew what the correct procedures were - one time it was an issue regarding an absentee ballot, and the other time the people at the polling place were just completely incompetent. That was on top of super-long lines. And my husband didn't vote in 2000 because they forgot to send him an absentee ballot.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Nice Person and Honest in Business

I just wanted to write about a great experience I had yesterday meeting a person who was both an honest businessman and super-nice. A frum couple opened a vitamin and health food store in our area, and since they recently added Sunday hours I decided to try my luck at finding a kosher vitamin that I would be able to swallow. (In my experience they've been pretty gross and too large so unfortunately I have not been taking a daily vitamin.)

EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE: The first thing I noticed is that it is a simple but well-put-together store. It doesn't look cluttered and doesn't present itself as a specifically frum establishment. When I walked in, the owner was providing in-depth assistance to a customer. He made a point of greeting me, and a few minutes later acknowlegding again that he would be with me momentarily, but also gave the other customer his full attention without rushing.

HONEST IN BUSINESS: He did not encourage the customer to buy things she didn't need, but suggested she speak to her doctor before buying other things. Then he said that he sometimes gets discounts from his supplies and will pass that on to his customers. He pulled out his records to confirm how much he had paid for the item, and then gave her a discount! I would imagine that this is the halachic standard for business, yet how many people would do this?

KNOWLEDGABLE ABOUT PRODUCTS: Then I received full attention to my vitamin search. He made four different suggestions, all of which showed excellent product knowledge. Did you know that if you get a capsule vitamin, you can break it open and mix the contents into pudding instead of swallowing it whole? He made sure to let me know what the price was for each option as well. And he carries free samples of a number of products.

NICE PERSON: After all this, we ended up schmoozing for about 20 minutes because he also moved his family from a warm-weather town to Cleveland around the same time we moved, and he knows our friends who moved out here with us. When another person came in that he knows, he introduced us.

Besides his naturally friendly personality, which is unique to everyone, none of this should be impossible for other store owners. A clean store, friendly face, and some knowledge about what you sell, plus not trying to cheat people.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Kindness Blog

Kindness Happens

Really nice blog where various bloggers (including some familiar in the J-blog world) share stories of things they have personally experienced or witnesses.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I though this was a funny want ad (from our community newsletter)

"Young couple seeking 2 bedroom apartment in Jerusalem , ideally, in a central neighborhood. If you know of any apartments for under $1000 with working electricity and water, not holes in the roof or the floor, and not next to major road construction or across the street from all-night dance clubs, or the Hamas youth center."

(Of course, the funniest part of this request is the price!)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Unethical business practices

Much as I have tried to avoid it, I am now in a position to have sales goals for my projects at work. While I think it's important to have some minimum goal to provide guidance and to give the management an idea of what to expect, I have noticed that the management tends to decide on the goal without seeing if it's realistic. Then they get upset that the number wasn't met.

This article by the Jewish Ethicist shows how this approach can lead to bad business practices. I think it serves comapnies better to look for a variety of new projects (which is what my direct boss excels at), rather than keep hiking up the goals on existing projects to an unrealistic amount.

Cute article about meeting other Jews

From The Bagel Theory