Friday, December 23, 2011

'Bye, Cats!

Shalom, chaverim! As Elul and I make our lurching, halting progress towards completing our packing, I took some time out to make my last visit to our local no-kill animal shelter to engage in what has to be the best volunteering gig ever.

My wonderful cat, Man Ray, died this past year after spending all his fourteen years on earth with me. I miss him tremendously. We knew it was very complicated and expensive to bring in a cat to Israel when making Aliyah from America,  though, so we chose not to adopt a new cat while we were still here. But since I went into unremitting, full-blown, kitty withdrawal psychosis, that's how I ended up volunteering to be a Cat Cuddler.

Man Ray expressing his intense interest in the practicing of my Torah portion

Being a Cat Cuddler means I go to the cat department at the shelter, sit quietly in a corner, and just pet cats and let them sit on my lap. The staff is stretched and overworked, and while they give every animal there the best of care, they really don't have the time to just sit around and cuddle them. Some cats are very hungry--not for food itself, but just for loving attention, soft words, and the lap of someone who doesn't care if they shed on it.

As Elul will somewhat grimly attest, he did not marry me because of my clothes-horse nature. In fact, I'd be more likely to wear the clothes OF a horse. That's why whenever he picks out clothes for me to buy and I wear them, I always get compliments. Whenever I wear something I buy, however, the roar of deafening silence fills the room. So it's no big thing for me to come home with pants covered in cat hair, dried drool, or even the finest traces of litter "remnants."

But while talking about cats is fun (for me, at least), posting pictures of them and trying to write amusing captions in their voices is even MORE fun. So without further ado, here are some pictures of cats at the Tri-County Humane Society of Boca Raton, Florida. (

"Are your heart strings being sufficiently jerked to the point of breaking, as I give you my best Stoic Forlorn Stare? Good, it's working!"

"My eyes may be a little goopy, but I'm still a stud--the ladies can't get enough of me! Too bad we've all been spayed or neutered."

"Yeah, I came down from Jersey for a little business deal dat didn't go down too well. Whaddyagonnado? Fageddaboudit!"
"You are getting sleepier...and sleepier...and when I meow you will feel an irresistible compulsion to shove that other cat off your lap and let ME have a turn."
"Yes, it's true that my refusal to use the litter box caused three different adoptive families to return me. But hey, I'm still the cutest one in this joint!"

I don't know much about the state of animal shelters in Israel, but I'm determined to put out feelers as soon as we get to Nahariya. In the meantime, please don't forget the enormous number of animals who are ending up in shelters in record numbers as this relentlessly crappy economy grinds on, and drives more people out of their homes and into places who can't or won't accept pets. Even if you don't have money itself to donate, shelters can always use old blankets and towels, throw-rugs, grooming items and all sorts of other things. Just call one up and ask what they need the most, and they'll be happy to tell you.

And again, Happy Hanukkah!

P.S. If you're getting this blog post by email and the pictures aren't showing at all, just go directly to the blog site itself at

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Big Student

Shalom, chaverim! We are now officially one week away from making Aliyah, and I'm starting to sweat--er, glow. My brand new JanSport "Big Student" backpack arrived yesterday, and I wanted to share with you how I am preparing to be a student again, but this time taking into account some necessary accommodations to my "middle-agedness."

As you can see from the video (if it isn't showing on the emailed version of this blog, please go directly to the blog itself, which is at, I am fully prepared. In order, I pack:
  1. One massive Oxford English/Hebrew Dictionary, guaranteed to cause lower back pain from its heft.
  2. 300 Hebrew flashcards, which I can't read yet, but hey, think positive!
  3. One pair of eyeglasses so I can see the whiteboard.
  4. Another pair of eyeglasses so I can see what I'm copying down on my paper from the whiteboard.
  5. Large economy-sized bottle of ibuprofen.
  6. Thermos of coffee as a chaser. Coffee and ibuprofen: snack break of champion mature students!
  7. And last but not least, a butt-pad with the tailbone part cut out. This is an absolute necessity for the hard plastic chair I will be sitting on for twenty-five hours a week. The cut-out tailbone feature should obviate the need to pack Preparation H in my Big Student backpack as well.

My mother should be happy seeing me with a backpack large enough to contain my Big Student Butt-Pad, which is one of the reasons I wanted to have Elul shoot this video of me packing it. I'd asked her last summer if she'd consider quilting me a kind of butt-pad snood I could use to attach my pad to the outside of my purse. Very intelligently, she gracefully declined my request and urged me to see alternative devices for butt-pad transportation. She should be doubly pleased that I chose to buy a JanSport backpack, as the company originated in Seattle--her hometown and my place of birth.

Happy Chanukkah, everybody!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We're Not Dead Yet!

Shabbat Shalom, chaverim! Elul and I are still slightly reeling from last night's Shabbat service at our wonderful Temple Sinai in Delray Beach, Florida. We were enormously surprised when Rabbi Greg Kanter and Cantorial Soloist Margaret Schmidt summoned us to the bima. In fact, when we were called up from our seats in the choir loft, my first response was to blurt out "why?" But up to the bima we went, where we were given a farewell blessing by Rabbi Greg, Margaret, and the entire congregation. As we were standing there, I gazed out into the congregation and saw so much love and support that I burst into tears. My mission to keep everyone at arm's length so I wouldn't feel bad about leaving? EPIC FAIL.

Of course, I hid out in the sanctuary after the service as usual, fiddling with music and otherwise stalling, as I am always uncomfortable in large gatherings. If by chance you see me at any sort of party at all, I'll be the one standing in the corner, looking at books, or hiding under the coats on the bed. But when I finally emerged, so many people came up to Elul and me to wish us well. I will never forget how Temple Sinai met us as strangers just one year ago, but took us in immediately as family. Oy, what will I do now without Tuesday Night Choir Practice, or shooting the breeze with the librarians on Tuesday afternoon when I did a miserable job selling things at the Sisterhood Judaica Shop?

To add to the surprise of the blessing, what struck me as very funny indeed is that while it was going on, I kept thinking of a particular scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The truth is, we aren't leaving for another ten days, so last night's Shabbat service was not actually going to be our last week's is! I kept wondering if we should just not come next week, so as to avoid questions like "why are you still here? I thought you'd left already!"

So we're not dead yet! And we'll show up and take the heat of being an anti-climax in human form, because it's worth it to spend just one more evening with these lovely, lovely people.

In other news, it's been a big week for us. Elul sold our car on eBay, to a nice man from Michigan. We're able to get by this week by using my mother-in-law's car while she is away on a cruise, but next week we'll be officially without wheels. We also met with the auctioneer, a very nice man who ended up living across the street from us, even though his auction house is ten miles away. Of course, we ended up getting offered much less for our furniture than we'd hoped for, but isn't that always the case? The very good news is, though, is that he was kind enough to let us keep the furniture until the day before we leave, rather than picking it up yesterday, which had been originally projected. So that means there will only be one night spent on air mattresses and in a furniture-less apartment, instead of ten nights. That convenience alone is more than worth the loss we incurred (against projected earnings) on the sale.

 In the meantime, we have made a few scurrying, squirrel-like trips to Wal-Mart, CVS and the local dollar stores to collect just a few more items to stick in our suitcases. In a future post, I will share with you a picture (or maybe even video, whoo-hoo!) of my new JanSport "Big Student" backpack, which is now winging its way from the Zappos warehouse in Vegas. As a soon-to-be adult student, sans voiture, I realized I will be needing a strong, sturdy, and waterproof backpack to carry back and forth to Ulpan (the government-run Hebrew classes for new immigrants to Israel). But in the meantime, here is one example of a product we got.

In our new lives in Israel, we will never have to peel eggs again!

Anyone know the Hebrew for "As Seen On TV"? Israelis, you have no idea what you are missing by not having products like "Eggies," "Forever Lazys," and machines that give you rock-hard abs with no exercise or dieting! This process reminds me of Golda Meir's memories of packing for her move to then-Palestine. She was convinced that they'd be living in tents, so she brought a lot of blankets. But she also insisted that they bring their wind-up Victrola and their collection of records, too. Somehow the record player made it, and she said that it was an attracting factor that helped them make friends and connections with lots of people. Perhaps our Eggies will draw lots of new friends to us!

P.S. I understand that if you're getting this blog emailed to you, it may not show certain photos or links to videos, e.g. Betty Boom Bah and today's YouTube link to a scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The way to view these, I guess, is to go directly to my blog at But otherwise, do continue to sign up to have this emailed to you, so you don't have to keep visiting and checking to see if I've posted something new. And again, have a peaceful and happy Shabbat!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Aliyah with Betty Boom Bah

Shalom, chaverim! It's a rainy Sunday morning here in Boca Raton, and Elul and I are enjoying our morning routine of coffee and internet surfing, before we breakfast and go out for our walk. As I write, I'm listening, comme d'habitude, to Reshet Bet (Station B) on the Israeli Broadcast Authority's internet radio streaming service. Elul has still been dutifully hacking away with Rosetta Stone, whereas I have basically punted. So now I am starting to experience procrastinator's remorse with regards to my lack of progress in Hebrew. Language learning, like mathematics, is something for which you really can't do last-minute cramming, particularly as a beginner. While I have managed to memorize an Israeli radio spot for a mysterious product called "Mega Glu-flex," I'm not sure how useful that will be in the long run.

On the other hand, I had a fleeting glimmer of desperate hope as a result of a conversation we had last night. Friends from our former temple in Las Vegas, Marty and Miriam, came into town for the night, between returning from a cruise and flying back home the next day. In addition to having been to Israel many times themselves, one of their daughters has a job leading tours to Israel. Miriam said it took her daughter one full year of immersion in Israeli culture to become fluent in Hebrew. Given the inverse correlation of age progression and language acquisition (the greater the age, the slower the rate of acquisition), I calculate it should only take me about four years to crack the Hebraic code! So there it is, I've set my goal for my 50th birthday: fluency in Hebrew, all in the period of one U.S. Presidential term of office.

We are thrilled to announce that we now have a solid bid for our car, which Elul put up for auction on eBay a couple of days ago with the headline "A Sweet Ride!" We started the bidding at what was essentially our reserve price, and last night we got our first bid. ("Mustang3564" eBay bidder, may you be as truly good as your feedback score indicates.) As for you other eleven auction watchers, get out those wallets, set reason aside, and bid like crazy!

It's funny what strange thoughts come to you just upon waking. This morning, I found myself wondering if the shipping company would do a good job of packing our "Betty Boom Bah" dancing, grunting, farting doll. Betty was what I call a "revenge gift"-- a gift given to me in retaliation for the equally silly "Harvey Nagilah" dancing doll I gave my friend Harvey one year for Hanukkah.

Betty is the height of good taste in novelty gift ware, lifting both her dress and her leg while breaking wind and squealing with surprised delight. It would be so sad if Betty met a grisly end: crushed in our lift, seized by customs for some obscure obscenity violation, or sunk to the bottom of the sea by Somali pirates. So just in case, I want to give her a kind of lifetime achievement award by preserving her work in cyberspace. Ladies and gentleman, it is with great pleasure that I bring you...Betty Boom Bah!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Back from the Cruise

Shalom, chaverim! Elul and I are just back from a cruise in the Caribbean, hence my online silence lately. We got back this morning, and are still facing quite a few loads of laundry to do and quite a few hundred emails to answer--or delete, more likely. Not to mention a practically empty refrigerator, too, but fortunately we had some of my homemade Egyptian Spicy Red Lentil Soup in the freezer. With luck it will thaw before dinnertime.

I discovered the joy of cruises relatively late in life. Several years ago, Elul's father's 80th birthday came around. To celebrate, he took his adult children and their families on a Holland America cruise. I was one of the lucky in-laws, and when I found out what cruises were really like--as opposed to my mental picture constructed from my days as an avid fan of "The Love Boat"--I cursed myself for never having tried them before. I just have two words of advice about cruises. They are:
  1. Go on one as soon as you can; and,
  2. Get a room with a balcony that has an unobstructed view: you want to spend your time sipping champagne while gazing romantically at the moon, not a lifeboat.
That's it! We went to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grand Turk; and St. Maarten. San Juan is a beautiful city that has done a terrific job at architectural preservation of its buildings in the Old City, but was showing the effects of the grinding economic slowdown by the large number of empty storefronts and "for sale" signs.

There wasn't much going on in Grand Turk, really, although we did manage to see the space capsule that John Glenn splashed down in, in 1962. It was slightly surreal. Instead of lounging on the beach, we decided to do our daily fitness walk by simply walking down the road that led out of the port into the town, then turn around at the thirty-minute point and walk back. The port is near the tiny airport of Grand Turk, so we spent most of the walk trudging by not-very-charming sheds and outbuildings. But seemingly out of nowhere, we spied the original space capsule, surrounded by a white picket fence! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at the time, but here's a link to a picture of this strange piece of history:

St. Maarten is a great island for a thrifty, coupon-clipping gal like me, in that it's a kind of cultural two-fer: there's a Dutch side called St. Maarten, and a French side called St. Martin. We spent $25 each ($20 a head plus a $5 tip) for a 2.5 hour bus tour of both sides of the island, which was fun and very interesting. There was not much ado about crossing the "border" between the Dutch and French areas, other than being asked to salute the sign indicating the border as we drove by. For some reason, our guide wanted us to make a stop at a "clothing optional" beach, so we did, for about twenty minutes. While there wasn't enough time for our group to go into the water, we could certainly tell that some of the other patrons were going to be investing in ample amounts of after-sun lidocaine lotion that night, from "tip to toe," if you catch my drift. Ouch!

And of course, no cruise would be complete without the charming and artfully created "towel animals" left on our beds each night by the cabin stewards, complete with gold-foil-wrapped chocolates and a little card wishing us a wonderful night's sleep. Here are a few:

I'm not sure what this octopus with a strange head? It's cool, though.

Towel Gorilla!

Wrinkly dog, tragically blinded by a gust of wind.
On our days at sea, I used the time to reflect on changes I need to make in my life, in addition to the seismic shift that is coming twenty-three days from now! There's nothing like waltzing around in a bathing suit to make you consider making a little extra effort in the areas of diet and exercise. Therefore, I had a blast "devouring" Tim Ferriss' fascinating book "The Four Hour Body." Ferriss is the author of the bestseller "The Four Hour Workweek," which, I'm embarrassed to say, I have not yet read. But since the ship's library had this other book, that's the one I read. Trying out his dietary advice was not hard on a fabulous cruise ship, since every type and amount of food on Earth was available as long as you can shuffle up to the Lido deck. "You would like fried eggs, lentils, sauerkraut, stir fried vegetables, peanut butter and ice water for breakfast? No problem, madame!" Applying this eating plan to our daily lives, however, on our rather more frugal budget, will be a greater challenge. Thank G-d for Aldi and Wal-Mart!

Modesty trumps vanity. A slightly more flattering picture of me was available, but since it showed a reflection of Elul taking the picture in his underpants, I chose this one.

I'm glad I found this book. Now I know I really have to stick to the diet, because once we started checking our emails when we got back today, we discovered we've been selected to be subjects in an Israeli documentary about people making Aliyah! Watch out, Kardashian sisters!