Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ode to Blogger

UPDATE: I've actually come back to this blog, so click here for the newest postings. But you can go to the other blog for May 2005 - August 2005 postings. Just remember to come back here.


This will be my last post on this blog. I am moving Divah World to If this is your first visit here, feel free to read the earlier posts before moving on.

My first post in the new space will explain why I've moved. I'd like to devote this space to why I like Blogger, and would recommend it if you want your own blog.

When I first decided to blog, I wasn't sure about my commitment. I needed something that would be easy to use and unintimidating to set up. Blogger certainly filled those requirements. There are a lot of good page templates to choose from so you get a nice look. Someone who is a novice at all things internet would have no problem getting up and running in minutes. And, of course, there's the big bonus---it's free.

You are quickly able to blog like a pro--adding links and photos. And I found ways to use my primitive knowledge of HTML to customize my page. If I was very proficient in HTML, I don't think I would have moved. If you know HTML, you can use the full access Blogger give you to your template to get the look you want.

Unfortunately, I am somewhere in between novice and expert. So I need to go to a host that is set up to give me the flexibility I want while holding my hand a bit through the process.

But if you just want to blog and are happy with the basics, or are HTML savvy enough to change whatever you wish, I totally recommend Blogger. It's been a good home to Divah World. Who knows, if I learn enough in my HTML course in the Fall, I just might be back........

Thursday, May 05, 2005


My friend Goldie Rassen is a Holocaust survivor. She was a student in Lithuania when the Nazis came to power. She hasn't told me much of her story. She was in a concentration camp, she made it through. That's all she tells me.

Goldie and I went to a funeral today, the funeral of another survivor--my friend Beverly's mother, Erna Pinto. Erna, her late husband Erich and Goldie are survivors who all stayed close to their Jewish faith. This is not something to be taken for granted. These are people who directly experienced the worst that mankind can give. They had to have questioned the omnipotent God who allowed this to happen.

Today is Yom HaShoah, a day of Remembrance for those lost in the Holocaust. At lunch after the funeral, Goldie talked about her feelings about faith in God. Now, this is a women who goes to services almost every Shabbat. A woman to whom Judaism and its survival is paramount. But does she believe in God? Does she think that Jewish practice brings you closer to God, or God closer to you? The answer is complicated.

Goldie knows that adherence to Jewish practice is what will keep Judaism alive for the generations to come. A teacher at heart, she wants Jews to know Hebrew, to read the literature, the poetry, the teachings that Judaism has to give, both secular and sacred. But God's role in all this? Goldie pointed to the fork on the table, "So, God will see and care whether the fork used is milchig (dairy) or fleishig (meat), but God couldn't see what was happening with the Nazi's?" She shrugged.

She told me other stories of her husband, of her life after the camp--stories I won't go into here. Some stories she couldn't complete--tears got in the way.

However she feels about God, seeing my faith in Judaism gives her much joy. I've told her that I don't understand how or why I am so involved. I'm not sure where it comes from. But it's there and it pours out of me and I'm able to help others tap into the spirit. That's what Goldie sees. However she feels, she understands and appreciates what I feel. If I can give her that, I have accomplished something in life.

Yom Ha Shoah

" . . . I should like someone to remember that there once lived a person named David Berger."
David Berger in his last letter, Vilna 1941

I found this quote on the Yad Vashem website.

My friend Goldie Rassen, herself a survivor, says Kaddish - the prayer for those who are gone - every Shabbat. She stands and recites the prayer for those lost in the Holocaust, with no one left to say Kaddish for them. Lately I have realized that when she is gone, I will stand and say the Kaddish for them. It is one small way I can be sure that there is a remembrance of David Berger and all the rest.

When I look at photos like these from, the website of the National Assembly of Hebrew students, taken at the end of the Warsaw Uprising

and these taken by two SS officers of the arrivals at Auschwitz

I can't help but put myself in their places. These are my people; they are my family. I have always felt that, from the time I was a young girl. I used to wonder--would I have survived? There is no way to answer that question. All we can do now is remember, and keep the light of Judaism alive.

And so, my Yom HaShoah Yarzheit candle is lit in remembrance of those we lost and to remember that through those of us who are here, the Jewish people will survive.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Kabbalat Shabbat at Rhoda Goldman

Stuart and I led services at Rhoda Goldman Plaza this evening.

Rhoda Goldman is an assisted living apartment complex. Stuart leads a weekly yoga group; I lead a bi-monthly meditation group. We also know a lot of people who live there because they are a part of the Beth Sholom community. My friend and teacher, Goldie Rassen, has an apartment at Rhoda Goldman.

The rabbis from the Healing Center couldn't make it this evening, so we filled in. We conducted two services--one for those who are less independent and live on the fourth floor and one for the general population.

The fourth floor service was very basic--some songs, candle lighting, more songs, kiddish, motzi. It's hard to know how much is getting through to most of the residents. But you can see them respond to the tunes, even if they can't get the words. For some of them, it's just a spark of recognition in their eyes. It's a gift they give to me, seeing what my singing, my presence, can give to them.

The general service was a bit more involved, but Stuart and I had it mostly under control. We had decided what we would do and who would do what. We didn't read over the Healing Center's siddur carefully enough--they changed some of the words of the hebrew prayers---I'm not sure why--but we forged onward. We made a point to read the hebrew and had the residents then read the english together. I think many prayer leaders forget the power of the hebrew. Even if people can't understand all the words, hearing the hebrew stirs up ancient memories--concrete memories from their childhood, or just the memories that are engrained in all Jews.

Again, it was nice to be able to bring joy to people. Again, I get to give a gift and get a gift all at the same time.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Counting the Omer Day 2 - Gevurah b'Chesed

The second day of the counting of the Omer. Kabbalistically, using the 7 Sephirot, emanations of God, is a day of strength-gevurah-in a week of loving kindness-chesed. Yesterday evening, as this strength/loving kindness day was ending, I had a wonderful City College moment that reminded me that the little kindnesses can sometime bring the most pleasure.

I spent the day finishing my Cultural Geography paper due that evening. No stress, it flowed well and I got it done with hours to spare. As I left the house to go to school, I had a thought of checking to see if I had a dollar (either bill or in change) for the parking lot. I grabbed my jacket, thinking that between my wallet and whatever would be in my pockets or rattling around in my bag would give me what I needed. This sounds like a longer process than it was, a thought that just whisked in and out of my head.

When I got to the pay station of the parking lot, I soon realized that was a thought I should have acted upon. I did not have a dollar in my wallet or my pockets or my bag--either in bill or change. I just stood there, staring into my wallet, feeling like an idiot, wondering what I was going to do. Do I risk parking without paying? Do I park, go to the annex and buy a pen or something for the change?

That was as far as I got when I heard a honk. I looked up, and a nice-looking young man in a SUV was smiling at me, holding out his parking ticket to me. I felt overwhelmingly relieved. With a big smile myself, I took the ticket, simply said "you've done your mitvah for the day" and we both went on our ways--me to part and then to class, him to wherever his evening took him.

Now, I don't advocate not paying for parking, but it was a moment where I was just stuck, and someone saw the situation I was in and helped out. It was a kindness that I will find a way to pass on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

the medium is the MASSAGE

I found my copy of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and when I opened it up to a random page, here's what I read:
"Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. 'Time' has ceased,
'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village . . .
a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space.
We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling,
the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.

We have had to shift our stress of attention from action to
reaction. We must now know in advance the consequences of
any policy or action, Since the results are experienced without
delay. Because of electric speed,we can no longer wait and
see. George Washington once remarked, 'We haven't heard
from Benj. Franklin in Paris this year. We should write
him a letter.' "
He wrote The Medium is the Massage in 1967.

If you're wondering about the title--MASSage verses MESSage--click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Passenger Heiss, please report, your plane is departing....."

I dropped Ken off at the airport for his flight to Las Vegas to attend NAB--the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. We got there a little late--about 1:10P for a 1:50P flight. He just called, and he did make it on the plane.

But that brought to mind something I saw or, more accurately, heard in the airports in Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington. When planes were announcing their last boarding calls, the names of the passengers who had not yet boarded are called out over the PA system. This happened not once, but two or three times. At one point I heard the announcement "Please come to the gate now so the plane can take off on time." It just seems like a nice courtesy, especially in this world of long security lines. You might miss a flight number, but you would hear your name, and could alert someone that you will be there. I have never heard that in an airport in this country. There is a last boarding call, but no names are ever announced. On the way home, while waiting in the Auckland airport, another American woman and I exchanged amazed glances on hearing these announcements, so I know I'm not alone in this perception.

In this country, it's a boon if they take you off a line when your flight time is near. I was able to go to the head of the security line in Oakland Airport recently because my flight was nearing its departure time (see my 2/18 blog entry). But coming home on that same trip people in the Phoenix airport were not allowed to do that. When they complained, they were told "you should have arrived earlier."

This is another one of those instances where we in the US can learn from what happens in other places.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Color of Money

An appropriate post for April 15

Ken's friend John Ingles was here visiting us--another Kiwi boy. He just couldn't get a handle on the American money. You see, our US notes are pretty boring--all the same size, all the same color. In New Zealand and Australia, it's a different story.

Here's New Zealand money

And here's Australian money

Now, here's our money

See the difference?

I know there are other money matters on most minds today, and other pressing issues in the world, but with the change in the $20 bill already a reality, maybe it's time to think about taking the change a bit further......

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Purim in Sydney

It's time to start catching up with the tales of my recent trip. I'll start with m Sydney Purim experience at Temple Emanuel.

I arrived at the shul in my Queen Esther costume just as the kid's Purim event was finishing. I felt right at home, since the kids were all dressed up. But, upon entering the sanctuary, I saw that I was in the vast majority of adults in costume.

Now, I'm used to a raucus, Beth Sholom kind of Purim--for a taste of this, check out Brian Geller's photos of this year's event.

At Temple Emanuel, the only congregants in costume were an Albert Einstein

and a guy in a wig

At least the clergy were dressed up:
Rabbi, uhhh, "Rabbit" Ninio

Rabbi Kamins

and Cantor Joseph

Rabbi Kamins had a beer, but I didn't see anyone else drinking. But I had lugged my etrog infused vodka halfway around the world and was determined to drink it. I tried to share it with the people around me, but had no takers. They appreciated the concept, but prefered not to partake.

The megillah was read, and then the Purim Shpiel began. I have to say, it was clever and very funny. It set the Purim story in a musical "Saturday Night Fever" meets "Sex and the City" script. There were technical difficulties with the photos, so I can only show one bad one:

That's Mordechai on the left, Esthella on the right, with her 3 girlfriends (Charlotta, Samanthala, & Mirandila) behind her.

So, while I'm used to a more participatory Purim, I can see why the Shpiel is a honored tradition here down under. And you know that if I lived here, I'd be in the thick of it.........

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Teacher who can't teach

If it's Tuesday night, it must be time for that adventure in learning--Geography 4, Cultural Geography. This had the potential to be a good class, but that potential, alas, was not fulfilled.

It's not the class's fault and it's not the subject matter--it's the teacher. He's a nice enough guy BUT a) He's not a good teacher; b) He doesn't know the subject material very well; and c) He's got his facts wrong a good 30 - 40 percent of the time. This is not a recipe for success. Given the syllabus, I could have prepared a better course than he's teaching.

Last week, he tried to teach that Jews believe that Jesus was a prophet. I would not, could not, let that one go. But never fear, his ignorance is non-denominational. He kept having to ask the length of Ramadan and he erred in saying that the basis of being Pope was in the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

I understand that religion is a tough section of this course, especially given the need to jam a lot of information into a short amount of time. But that is where a skilled teacher can do some good, and a bad one, like the one I've got to deal with, can, unfortunately, do a lot of harm.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Short Note about Flying

With all the airplanes I've been on in the past 3 weeks, you'd think I'd have no qualms about flying. Now, I'm not phobic about it, obviously I travel on airplanes, and when I fly I am seemingly undisturbed. But I have to admit that it's not my favorite mode of transportation.

I think the main problem is that I just don't understand or really trust how a huge, heavy plane gets off the ground and flys through the atmosphere. I know it does, and I know there are good scientific reasons why it does, but it's still just magic to me...and magic is illusion and illusion isn't real. So I just don't know what keeps the plane in the air and I don't really trust that it won't, at some point, fall down.

As I have said, these thoughts are not debilitating and don't stop me from getting on the plane. But I have to admit, I'm much happier when we land.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Safe Landing

I'm still on New Zealand time, so I'm a day ahead, but I'm back in San Francisco. It was a long trip--Auckland to Sydney, a 3-hour layover, then Sydney to SF. It was a very full plane, and we were in the very last row. Actually, not such a bad place to be. A bit noisy, both from engine noise and people standing around streching their legs. The one bit of space that's not an aisle in the 747 coach class is the section in front of the toilets, so that's where people congregate. I did hear some interesting conversations, many about Australia and Australians vs USA and Americans--with the Canadians somewhere in the middle.

United and Air New Zealand are Star Alliance partners. Our flight in was an Air New Zealand flight; our flight out was a United flight. There is a marked difference. Although both planes were full, there was much more of a cattle car feel to the United flight. Granted, it was really packed, but it was more than that. To some extent, it's the attitude of the flight attendents. I know it's not an easy job, and I know the United flight attendents have issues with their management, but does that mean that you can't be gracious, treat the passengers with respect, maybe even smile? It almost felt like they were doing us a favor by serving us. I'm sorry, but that's YOUR JOB. The Air New Zealand flight attendents, on the other hand, get it. Maybe they're just happier in their jobs, but they certainly do what they can to make the long flight more pleasant. Besides that--the food on Air New Zealand is better (although my travel hint is to order the vegetarian meal--it's a better bet and by ordering a special meal you always get your food first).

I've got a lot more to write on the whole trip experience. Getting online with blog entries in New Zealand was logistically harder that I thought it would be, so I didn't post much. I do have stories and pictures and will share them in the days ahead.

As a preview,here's a long shot of Bondi Beach:

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Phar Lap

Yesterday I finally saw something I've been looking for since my first trip here in 1991--the bones of Phar Lap. Who is Phar Lap? you ask.
Phar Lap is one of the greatest raceshorses ever to run in any generation.

Living with Ken, I had learned about the legend of Phar Lap, and there is a movie about him, way pre-Seabiscuit.

Phar Lap was born in New Zealand, and died in the US. He was poisoned at the racetrack of Tanfaran--in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco, where a shopping center now stands. Years ago, Ken and I went to go to the Sears there. The address was just San Bruno, so I didn't think anything of it, until I saw the sign. "Oh no, Ken, we can't go there---they killed Phar Lap!" Yes, we did end up going, but I say a little prayer any time I'm there.

The thing about Phar Lap is that he was a ray of hope for New Zealanders & Australians during the depression. He was a great horse, and when they did the autopsy, they found he had the biggest heart they had ever seen in a horse. He's claimed by both Australians, where he did most of his racing, and New Zealanders, where he was born. His bones are in the Te Pape museum in Wellington, his hide in Melbourne, and his heart in Canbarra.

It's just one of those great stories I love.....

UPDATE: For a more recent Phar Lap post, click here

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Here comes the sun.....

If I had to choose a day for the sun to show itself, Thursday was the day I would have chosen, and for once, the karma was with me. The plan for the day was to take a coast walk, and I couldn't have asked for better weather. The sun was out, the waves were high, and the temperature was a delightful 70 or so degrees--20 centigrade to the folks here and the rest of the world (but more on that in another post).

After doing some studying in the morning, I headed over to Bondi Beach. I walked about the town abit--nothing really much--and had some lunch. Then I set off. The walk is just a path alonge the cliffs boardering the Pacific Ocean. When I'm at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I often think about the world on the other side. There I was, on that other side, looking back. The water was a beautiful blue/green hue--I hope the pictures due it justice (I'll get them posted soon).

At one of the beaches along the way, there was a photo shoot of some sort going on. It was pretty low key, the subjects were two Pacific Island women in front of a surfboard with the ocean waves as the backdrop. The story in my mind was that they were a singing due posing for their new album cover. Wouldn't it be a trip if one day I actually saw it in a store?

The plan was to meet up with Joan & Mark Reiss's friends Ralph and Janette at the halfway point, about an hour or so away, and walk the rest of the trail. I got Bronte Beach, the designated spot, a bit early, so I went a little further to investigate the cemetary I had seen in the distance. Anyone who's read my earlier entries will not be surprised at this. (For those who haven't, see "Lifecycles, Part 1).

I like to wander around cemetaries--it's a very special kind of quiet. And, like my penchant for reading obituaries, I feel it's a way to honor people's lives. And another place I get to wonder about their stories. What struck me in this cemetary was the number of couples where the men died in their 30's and 40's, and the women lived into their 80's and 90's. Although these didn't seem such early graves--there weren't many earlier than the 1920's--it's still somewhat early in Australian settlement, I think. And with a lot of the early settlers being Irish Catholics, I would imagine that the women would have had a good number of children early in their lives, with a good amount dying in childbirth. While that may be the case, the graves I saw seemed to tell a different story. I guess it's time to read Robert Hughs' "The Fatal Shore" and get educated on my Australian history.

I met Ralph at Cafe Q at Bronte Beach. He has knee issues, and Janette got caught up in work, so instead of walking the rest of the way, he drove me to a couple of more coastal beaches. All of these beaches have protected sea water pools for swimming--a nice feature, along with showers to rinse off. They also have little kiosks of tables and chairs for picnicing out of the sun. And, of course, more public toilets available than we seem to be able to manage in the States.

Ralph dropped me off at the train station, and I got to take Sydney's version of BART for the first time. Their ticket system is similar, although the trains seem bigger--they're the type with different levels, like some of the old LIRR trains, or what I've seen of some CalTrans trains. I transfered to a bus, and was back in Glebe in plenty of time to prep for Purim....a tale to be told in my next entry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's Raining, It's Pouring.......

What can I vacation weather karma has kicked in once again. It's not just raining--a just put up the umbrella and go with it rain. It's stormy, with winds that constantly try to grab the umbrella from your hands. It's drenching rain that makes getting around difficult--you get soaked just waiting for the bus.

I did manage to get out a bit today. Brent drove me over to Newtown, a place I remember as having cool ethnic, Indonesian goods kind of shops. I was hoping to get some clothes that don't make it to the states, plus find the makings of a Queen Esther type costume for Purim--I've brought my sequined tiara with me. But the shops I remember have been, for the most part, replaced with trendy clothes stores with goods out of my age range. I did manage to find a skirt I liked, although I will not be wearing it low on my belly as I believe a teen would. But it works for me.

If the weather clears tomorrow, Joan & Mark Reiss's friend Ralph is taking me on one of his famous walks, possibly around the harbor beaches. If the rain continues, I think I'll hit the museums or galleries.

Friday I'll hang out with Brent and Sharon. Friday through Monday is a holiday weekend here--Easter holiday. It comes as a bit of a shock to me--I don't know if it's because I'm American or Jewish. Is Good Friday a holiday in the US? Maybe just a bank holiday? And we certainly don't do Easter Monday. All the British Commonwealth countries deal with those Christian holidays--for instance, they also do Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. I would guess that those traditions were not lost at Independence, but in the time of separation that followed. As I study Western Civilization, I'm realizing how much Christianity is tied up with European history. Again, as an American and a Jew, those traditions and their origins tend to be out of my radar.

Well, however the holiday has happened, let's hope that the weather clears up and we can all enjoy it.........

Monday, March 21, 2005

View of the Bay

Titahi Bay
Originally uploaded by M Divah.
Before I move on to any Sydney posts, here is a photo of Titahi Bay, a block from Ken's parents' house. Ken grew up in this community, although on the side away from the beach. His parents moved to the house on the beach side about 12 years ago.

When it's clear, you can see the South Island. As you may have read in the previous post, there's been lots of fog, so I haven't been able to show that...hopefully when I'm back.....

Buses & Trains & Planes…Oh My…

Finally made it to a place where I can post this. It was written on Friday(it's now Tuesday)


It was a major travel day using all sorts of transportation spanning from local to international. We did make it to Wellington, finally, safe and sound, although it’s never without some sort of new adventure. (I will warn you this is a long post—I don’t expect future entries to be such a length.)

It started out easy enough. Ken & I left the house, walked a few blocks to Chenery & 30th, and boarded the 26 bus to the Glen Park BART(Bay Area Rabid Transit—somewhat like the Long Island Railroad, for the New York readers) station. This trip has a couple of firsts for us—first time we can use the newly finished BART to SFO and the first time we can fly directly from SFO to Auckland. We didn’t even need to use the new inter-terminal tram, since the SFO BART stop is right at the international terminal.

Check in was also a breeze. The Air New Zealand agent even directed me to the United counter so I could get my frequent flyer number, which I had forgotten to enter when I bought the tickets. This trip alone should reap some benefits—not just with the San Francisco to New Zealand legs, but I’m also traveling Air New Zealand round trip from Wellington to Sydney, so there will be lots and lots of miles.

Even security presented no problems. I know there were those of you who had some doubts, but my crochet hooks and blunt edged scissors made it through without raising any flags with the scanners.

We had left plenty of time for any problems which, of course, didn’t arise, so now we had time to kill at the terminal. It was of eerie in a science-fiction-movie-what’s-wrong-with-this-picture kind of way. The lighting was soft, the sounds muffled, and there weren’t a lot of people—none of the hustle and bustle that I expect at an airport. Maybe it’s because the gates are spaced far enough apart that you don’t have that many people milling about; maybe it’s that we left on a Wednesday and the midweek traffic isn’t heavy; and maybe it’s still a lull in travel due to 9/11. Whatever, it felt a bit odd. So we sat and read and waited.

The plane ride was uneventful—just what you want in a long trip. The food was okay—I ordered vegetarian/non-dairy, which definitely gives you a better shot. Ken got a good amount of sleep hours in, I did not. It just wasn’t happening for me. So I sat and read and crocheted and meditated a bit. I wasn’t into getting involved with any of the movies—The Incredibles, the second Bridget Jones movie, and something staring Hillary Duff. It’s sometimes more interesting to just drift in and out of the pictures, making up my own version of the dialogue.

Ken and I remarked that this was the first Southern Hemisphere trip we’d taken that didn’t involve any trauma—I didn’t get sick, he wasn’t sick, we didn’t miss any connections. We even had our next leg, Auckland to Wellington, already booked. But little did we know what lay ahead for us.

Immigration and customs—no problem. No one even questioned my red water bottle filled with vodka (for those who wonder about that, well, you’ll have to follow my Sydney adventures). We got the shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, and then the trouble began. It was 6 o’clock in the morning, and the place was filled with travelers—business people, families on holiday. We got on the check-in line without worry, we had plenty of time—our plane to Wellington wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:30a.m. Just when we got to the front of the line, we heard an announcement about planes to Wellington being suspended. They wouldn’t even let us check in, “just wait near check-in until further notice” we were told. I had a bit of an attitude—“you mean we have to wait just to stand on this long line again?” Well, yes, that’s what they were saying.

The problem was fog in Wellington. The runway at the Wellington airport is short and the pilots need to have visible contact no less than 500 meters. The fog was thick in Wellington, with visibility down to 300 meters. A women sitting with us said this happened a couple of months ago, and lasted for 3 days. This fact did not do much to improve my mood. As more people arrived in the terminal, the chaos increased. We were told to get on line—or should I say, queue up—then stand down. The natives were definitely restless. Meetings were being missed; families were missing connections for weddings. Then we hear, “Air New Zealand Flight 415 to Wellington now boarding.” Huh? We hadn’t even checked in yet, and there was that really long line to go through. But a group of us jumped to the front—with the understanding of those behind us—got checked in and raced to through security to the gate. We got on the plane, and then were informed by the pilot that we were going to start out towards Wellington, but if the fog hadn’t cleared we would land in Palmerston North, then bused to Wellington. And is what indeed happened, adding another 3 hours to our trip.

We are now ensconced at Ken’s parents’ house, 2 Whanake Street, Titahi Bay. We’re headed into fall, not spring, with the clocks turning back, not forward. And there are other stories to tell, so stay tuned.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Finding my wayonline

I've finally found out where to get online in Porirua, the town closest to where Ken's parent's live at Titahi Bay. I've written a long tome about the trip into New Zealand, but I'm at the library, and can't attach my thumb drive here, so that entry will have to wait until I get to Sydney this evening.

It's amazing to me how quickly I've adapted to being here. I'm not driving--that's a bit too advanced for me--but I do manage to look the correct way when crossing the street. I've been here enough to be familiar with the surroundings, which is comforting. The weather's been good--warm and sunny.

I'll write later this week about what's happening with Ken's mom, which is the reason we are here. She's okay at the moment, but there have been two ambulance trips to the hospital since we've been here due to epileptic attacks she's had. One thing to note--it's nice to not have cost factor into the decision of whether to call the ambulance or not. Unlike in the States, it's free.

More from Sydney............

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Journey Begins

Tomorrow at this time, I will be somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my way to New Zealand. Yes, it's a long flight--it's good that we're doing it overnight AND I found some Atavan--hopefully, I'll get some sleep.

I'll be sharing my adventures with you in this blog. After all, that was the reason for starting this in the first place. I'm hoping to get some photos in here as well, if I get the technology working. It will be a triumph if all goes well, and we get to transmit from Ken's laptop while sitting in a "hotspot" cafe in Wellington.

I don't know and can't really imagine how it will be to deal with Ken's mom and her wondering presence. It will be a lesson in patience.

Sydney should be a blast. It's one of my favorite cities, and I'm looking forward to some exploration. And as much as I'll miss Purim at Beth Sholom, it will be fun to participate "Down Under." I've decided to put a costume together when I get there, although I did bring my sequin tiara to keep up my own personal Purim tradition.

So, welcome along for the ride.......

Friday, March 04, 2005

Lifecycles, Part 2

On Sundays, we get the New York Times. I'm coming up on my 19th anniversary in San Francisco, but it's one of those New York habits I cannot and will not break. What has changed in the years I've been getting the NYTimes is what I read and in what order.

I used to hit the magazine section first, then the book review, the Arts & Leisure, and then sports, which in the national version used to have the lifestyle columns in the same section. These days, I hit the Styles section first. Why? My Sunday isn't really complete until I read the wedding announcements.

Up until a few years ago, we only got a profile of one wedding. Now, in additon to the quarter page profile, we get 2-4 pages of announcements, depending on the season. Ocassionally there's a notice of someone famous, or a child of someone famous, but for the most part it's just regular people. I don't know them. Again, as in my last post, we ask the question--why do I read them?

I think it's like reading a series of short stories every week. Sometimes there are lots of details--where they met,who set them up, how they felt about each other at first. In some stories we even get a bit of dialogue. Most of them have photos--some very staged, some a bit more casual. I try to get a feel for the couple from their smiles and their body language. And then there's the info on their parents--together, divorced, occupations. All feed into the storylines.

Sometimes there is very little data given, but enough to fill in the blanks. Did the family go into crisis when an O'Malley married a Goldberg, or a Chin married Thurston III?

I could go on and on. Like reading the obituaries, I wonder about the voyeur quality in me. But then, I also think, as with the obituaries, it's another way to honor life--everyone's life. I get to share in these couples celebration. I get to be someone else who wishes them good luck and hopes for the best.......

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lifecycles, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago while I was sitting in my favorite Richmond District cafe, Toy Boat, reading the paper, a man remarked to me, with dismay, "Why are you reading the obituaries!?!?" "Well," I answered, "it's part of life...."

I started reading the obits daily during my cancer treatment in 2002. I remember my eye catching an article about a 55 year old woman who died of breast cancer after a 5 year struggle with the disease. Okay, maybe not the most psychologically healthy thing for me to be reading at the time, considering the similarities in our situations. But what started with a morbid fascination with the death of those like me has become a way I honor the life of others in my community of all ages and situations.

Rabbi Lew often talks of the Abravanel teaching on the spiritual path represented by the Chumash, the 5 books of Moses. Bereshit/Genesis is the start of the spiritual path, the personal story always involving some sort of leavetaking. Shemot/Exodus is the revelation, and the entrance into community. Vayikra/Leviticus is about practice. Bamidbar/Numbers involves bringing the practice into our lives. And Devarim/Deuteronomy----that's about preparing for our death. When I first heard this teaching, I was fine with the first four, but the last one upset me. What does it mean--living our life so we can prepare for our death. But it is important to face our lack of immortality. In fact, it is that lack of immortality that gives us our spirituality.

So, why do I read the obituaries. In some ways, I guess, it's just the voyeur in me. But it's also a way to bring spirituality into my life by carrying a piece of someone else's life into my heart, even just for a moment. And it's not just about reading about those who are gone, but seeing them through the eyes of those who loved them. Yesterday, one notice was written in the form of a letter from a beloved only child, only daughter to her beloved father. You could feel the pain of her loss, but also her release. Sometimes it's a fond farewell to a favorite aunt or friend. Sometimes it's an homage to one who has lived many years on this earth giving to many.

By reading these notes, I get to share in all of it, honor those who are gone, grieve with those who remain, and realize that we don't travel the path alone.......

Friday, February 18, 2005

Have yad, will travel.....maybe not

Today I flew to Arizona to visit my parents and celebrate my mom's birthday. First tip--if you can, avoid traveling on the Friday of a holiday weekend--especially one that starts what Northern Californians call "Ski week." I had an e-ticket, so check in was fine, and I only had carry-on luggage, so no problem there......but the line to get through security snaked around the entire baggage claim area. At 7a I started to get nervous about making my 7:40a flight, but soon an America West employee came around calling for people who had 7:40 flights, and directed us to the head of the line.

So far, so good.

I know the drill--everything in the bins, including jackets and shoes. My big worry was my crochet hooks and sissors. I had done the research, and found that crochet hooks and knitting needles were allowed, as were blunt sissors, but you never know. Sure enough, no problems with those items. But the scanner saw something in my backpack. They asked to check it by hand. I couldn't figure out what I was carrying--my pens, pencils, flashlight?? Nothing made sense. Then--it hit me. "I know what it is," I told the man checking the bag, "I have a pointer in the bag." So I directed him to my small bag, where in a plastic bag, wrapped in my tallit, was my yad. While getting to it, he said, "Is it sharp?" "No," I answered, and while he seemed intrigued with the yad when he found it, he deemed it safe, and let me go on.

So to all of you travelling layners...beware, and point out your pointer to airport security, before they point at you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Entering Sacred Space

In this week's Torah portion, Terumah, we begin the telling of the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. This year, I was struck by the transition to the parsha. The Torah does not take us directly from the revelation at Sinai to the building. In the parsha in between Yitro and Terumah, Mishpatim, we get our first large dose of laws, many of them dealing with how we live together. Is this what we need before we can create sacred space? Do we need to know how to be in community, go outward before we can go inward? Is community the first layer we build before the skins and the curtains and the golden cover of the ark with the cherubim watching over it?

Do we need sacred community before we can have sacred space???????

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It's a small world, after all......

It's wonderful to make unexpected connections in the world, especially in a city and without using any kind of new technology.

Yesterday, instead of going to Beth Sholom for Shabbat morning services, I went to Circle Minyan. Circle Minyan is a now quarterly, once monthly, small gathering of people to chant, pray, share, discuss and, of course, eat as part of our Shabbat practice. It was start ed by Ami Goodman and Abby Caplin when they were members of Beth Sholom, and is continuing through the efforts of Kenesset HaLev and Jeff Haas.

One advantage of Circle Minyan for me is that I can walk there--it takes place in the Synergy School on Valencia Street, about a 20 minute walk for my house. The sun was out, the air was crisp, my shoes were comfortable. All in all, a great way to start Shabbat morning. I strolled down 29th Street. As I crossed San Jose Ave, there, about a block away, was Sam, a wonderfully cheerful Russian man I know from Beth Sholom. He's part of a group of Russian men who attend Mincha at Beth Sholom almost every day. A short, stout man with a firm handshake, we have come to appreciate each other's presence. I like his enthusiatic greetings, he responds to my ruach, despite the color of my hair :) We were surprised to see each other out of our normal element. He was waiting for the start of services at Chabad. As always, he greeted me warmly, introduced me to his friend Abraham, and I went on my way with a "Shabbat Shalom!"

Encounters like this make me realize how much I love all the places I go in my Jewish community. In one morning, I got to touch very different parts of that world. It reinforces the wonderful sense of community I feel, and gives me another experience to share with others when I'm trying to explain the importance of finding community.

It is a way we maintain our humanity in a sometimes inhuman world.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Oh my, what have I done??

Here I am at the threshold of something new. I'm not sure where it will lead, but I'm going to give it a try. Do I have thoughts worth posting for the world to see? I don't know. But as I step into this new world, I know that, like life, it's the journey that's important, not the end result.