Archive | March 2012

Everything’s Coming Up .. too soon

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The warmth in March, and everything that goes with it is coming at us all too soon. The last few days of March have behaved normally, reminding Rochesterians what a Rochester March should really feel like. Sunny but raw. Windy and cold. But last week’s weather was the talk of the town here in Ra-cha-cha. […]

Another Good Reason to Keep Kosher – “Slime” Free Meat

Yes, Kosher meat is more expensive.

And, unless you live in an area with a good-sized Jewish population, kosher meat and kosher butchers are hard to come by.

But with this “pink slime” trending in the news, it’s reassuring to know that absolutely NO pink slime is permitted in kosher meat, according to KosherEye,  a blog for  foodies who also keep Kosher.

According to the blog:

Statement from OU Kosher: Kosher ground beef is made out of the kosher pieces of meat, trimmed by hand. No mechanically separated beef or pink slime is used in any OU-certified production.

The other night, I picked up a pound of kosher ground round and a pound of kosher ground lean turkey and treated my family to a slow-cooked meatloaf that I have to say was absolutely delish.

So, if you don’t want pink slime in your beef, or mechanically separated parts in your lunch or dinner, if you want chickens that are fed a grain-only diet and that are not fed any dead chicken parts, if you want a sustainable meat supply that by law must treat and slaughter its animals in the most humane way possible, you don’t have to be Jewish to buy kosher meat.

With that, I hope that there will be kosher burger joints popping up all over the nation. Then again, my cholesterol levels would be sky high if that were the case.

Staten Island, the original Organic farming town

This is reblogged from one of my favorite blogs, Secret Staten Island. As the growing season starts and with the growing trends of community supported agriculture and organic farming, this farm story comes from the least likely of places. Staten Island today has only one remaining farm.

I’m Not From Here. But I’m getting There.

Last night I went to a professional women’s networking  event sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation. Local TV reporter Rachel Barnhart was the guest speaker. A young journalist with great passion and conviction, she spoke of her struggles early in her career and how proud she is to be working and covering news in the town in which she was born and raised.

Here are some things I loved learning about this homegrown reporter:

  • She stands by her convictions. In high school, she was suspended because she refused to stop publishing her own underground newspaper.
  • After sending in her first demo tape to land a broadcasting job, a veteran in the broadcasting business “ripped her to shreds” in an interview. Instead of getting discouraged, she was thankful for the helpful criticsm, took all suggestions into consideration and moved on.
  • Later in her career, she fought a non-compete clause in her contract at Channel 8 and then landed a job at WHAM, where after a year working as a web producer, she paid her dues and was back on the air for the 6 pm newscast.
  • She was the first local reporter from upstate New York to scoop the story that then-Rochester mayor would run as Lieutenant Governor with Andrew Cuomo. She picked herself and a camera crew and drove through the night to be at a press conference in the NY Metro area to be the first in the Rochester area to get the story – all on a hunch.
  • Even though there are bigger media markets out there, Rachel is proud to be covering her hometown because she passionately believes in its revitalization, thank you very much!
  •  It is with this faith in Rochester that Rachel has built quite a local following. A journalist of the digital generation, she has harnessed the power of social networking and has 7,000 Twitter followers and counting. Including yours truly.

As a transplant, one thing Ms. Bernhart said ratttled me. On bringing  in talent from those who are not from the area,  she said that it makes sense for the Rochester media market to hire native Rochesterians. Who better knows the area, its people than those who grew up here? Out of town editors and writers just “don’t get” Rochester.

Perhaps this is true. Rochester is a very tightly-knit town. If you have no relations here that can be traced back one or two generations, you are pretty much an outsider.  I’m not the only transplant to Rochester who has felt that it is hard to break into social and professional circles that were forged in grammar school. This is a big contrast from big cities where new people come and go and work their way in all the time. Like they do in my hometown of New York City.

Is it not my fault that I needed to go with my husband to Rochester when he landed a job here? Did we need to go where he could make a living? Where we could have money for food and clothing and to send our kids to a nice summer sleep-away-camp?

True, the initial connection my family has in Rochester is this is the place where my husband found a great job. But, this connection is often not enough for us trailing spouses.

Here is how, after 12 years of living in a town other than my hometown, I know I am almost “home” both geographically and professionally:

  • I don’t get lost anymore and know the difference between 390, 590 and 490.
  • I’m comfortable telling people I’m “from” Rochester when away on vacation. And when I start to say, “but I’m originally from…” I stop and let it go.
  • I have grown to marvel at the clean lines of the Rochester City skyline. Sure, it’s not the New York City skyline, but it has a really cool bridge. And I personally know the civil engineer who designed it.
  • My husband is home by six nearly every night. He has a 20 minute, traffic-free commute. In how many cities can you say that?
  • When our friends “back home” tell us of their struggles to get their kids into the best private schools, we proudly boast about the great public schools in Rochester’s suburbs.
  • I have yet to land a full-time job, but for the last two years, I have been bestowed the opportunity to meet all sorts of great interesting people through my column in the Democrat & Chronicle.

When I accepted writing this column, my editor at the time gave me some great advice: this is the chicken and waffle dinner column. It’s all about community.

This column will never win me the Pulitzer. It in no way matches the ambitions of my 22-year-old self fresh out of college.  In fact, most of my journalism professors would raise their eyebrows at the stuff I write about.  It’s not hard-hitting journalism.  In fact, you can call it fluff, and I’d be cool with that.

However,  my writing makes a difference.  Greyhounds have been adopted. People have found support as they battle illnesses like cancer, Parkinson’s and Crohn’s disease because of events I’ve plugged in my column. Bikes have been donated and refurbished for the poor by local Rotary clubs and donations of food have been dropped off at area food pantries. It’s the good news column in an industry that is mostly filled with bad news.

It doesn’t really pay much monetarily. I get the payback when little old ladies stop me in synagogue or at Starbucks or in the supermarket to say how much they enjoy reading my column.

For me, that’s the time I get the feeling that I am finally home.  For me, for now, that’s enough.

Shhhh! Please Don’t Tell my Parents!!

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For the first time in your life, your parents are away. They leave their home, the home they raised you and taught you right from wrong, in your trusted care while they take a long overdue romantic vacation for just the two of them.

You know where this is going.

The Party. It’s the right of passage for every American Teen. At least it seems that way in the movies. As the weather warms up, think of all those teen movies that ended in a springtime house party bash. Some that come to mind just from my generation include Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and later, Mean Girls

When I was growing up on Staten Island, it was rare to find a house that was not an attached townhouse. For those of you in suburbia, this means a house that shares at least one common wall with one neighbor. Or maybe your house was flanked by townhouses on both sides. The walls that separated one home from another were exceedingly thin and provided no sound proofing.

How thin? We could say “God Bless You!” when we heard our neighbors sneeze. When there was a birthday party, a family fight, or when their coo-coo clock went off at all hours of the night, you heard that too.

So, the first time – the only time – I had a party the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did the right thing. I let my neighbors know that I was going to have a few  friends over. Just a few. And, we might get a little loud. And, would they mind if we put some beer bottles in their trash the next day?

My neighbor, Dom, a man in his late 60’s who played Frank Sinatra on his backyard transistor radio all summer and who introduced me to my first grilled Italian pepper, said it wouldn’t be a problem.

I was a good kid. Really I was. Still am. Even though my teen daughter now views me as irresponsible because I caught mono in my sophomore year of college after a weekend of parties. So, when planning my first keg party, no I was not of age, but my friends and I were all right at the cusp. We were all turning 20 that year. That’s why we had the party, it was for a friend, a girl who received all honors in high school and was studying economics at SUNY Binghamton. She was turning 20 that weekend. We did the responsible thing by asking my friends’ of-age boyfriend to buy the beer.

My underage friends and I were responsible for hiring the DJ. He  charged $75 for the night and three of us each chipped in $25. We cleared a spot in my basement where he could set up and play. We didn’t want to set up outside because again, I was trying to be considerate of my neighbors.

More importantly, I was trying not to get caught and get in the worst trouble of my short 19-year-old life.

The party was a success! It was a beautiful night and we would have gone swimming in the pool if there weren’t so many damned mosquitos. (Another thing about Staten Island. No matter how small the backyard, everyone managed to have a pool. It may have been an above-ground pool, but it was wet and cold in the hot New York City summer, that is what mattered most). I remember dancing and lots of kids coming, most invited, some, who barely spoke to me in high school but oh look who’s having a party and decided now they wanted to be my friends.

My friends had their boyfriends with them. A friend of mine became a friend with benefits.

Most importantly, no one got too drunk and no one got hurt. And, my considerate party goers didn’t stay or make noise too too late into the night and my college roommate even mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors when it was all over.

Only one household possession was broken as a result of the party. The kitchen clock came crashing down. That was because one of those previously mentioned mosquitos got in and my brother tried to kill it when it landed on the clock.

My brother…..

Now, my parents are very wise. Later, they told me that they had their suspicions that I had a party whether or not they found a letter on computer print-out paper (the kind that came in a stack with holes on the sides to feed it into the printer. Remember, this was the late 80’s). The letter was written by my brother, an impressionable teenager at the time who had just written a letter to his friend that “my sister had a wild crazy party at our house and there was beer and everything!”

Yes, that was a very dark week in the Cooper household. My parents felt betrayed by me and my good girl friends that never got in any trouble in high school. There were tears of guilt and apology later that week in my parents’ living room among all the guilty.  But I’m 43 now and I’m not grounded anymore and I still love my brother.

So, why do I bring this up now?

Now, after 20 years of being away, it is my parents who are the retired empty nesters living on the other side of the wall from a family with three teenagers.  Last weekend, the parents of these teenagers went away for a vacation.  Last weekend, it was my parents who were the couple who could not get to sleep because of a teen house party that went deep into the night.

The next night, my parents pulled into their driveway after spending the evening with friends and were greeted by all three of the kids next-door. With a big plate of home-baked, shamrock-shaped cookies.

“We baked these for you. We are SO sorry that we made so much noise and kept you up all night,” mom told me over the phone, and we laughed as she described how this girl pleaded for forgiveness.

Sure, they were sorry about the noise. But they were more worried about getting potentially ratted out to their parents. That was the main reason for the cookies.

At this, my mom took the cookies and laughed. “No problem. Been there. Done that.”

So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone. And keep the music down after 1 a.m., will ya?”

Window Shopping in Tel Aviv, Windows Shattering in Ashdod

As the violence between Israel and her neighbors in the Gaza strip heats up, I have been glued to not CNN for updates, but the news feed on my Facebook page from The Jerusalem Post. I am relying on the Jerusalem Post and accounts from my friends in Israel to give me the scoop on the latest to what is going on there. I have given up on US media on getting any story related to Israel right. The latest picture on the JPost newsfeed brought back memories of my last nights in Israel spent in Tel Aviv.

When you think of Israel these days, I bet that fashion does not come to mind. No, no, you say, nothing is ever reported from Israel except conflict and war. What else can possibly be going on there? 

A lot. Fashion, for one. Israel is entering the international stage for its fashion design. Israeli designer Ronen Chen’s can be found all over the world. Tel Aviv Fashion exec Molly Grad is one of Israel’s top female executive at Gottex Swimwear.

Tel Aviv designers teamed up with designers from Milan, its sister city, to put together Tel Aviv Fashion Week last November Some Milan designers included Milan’s Roberto Cavalli.

On our last nights in Israel this past December, we spent time wandering the streets in Tel Aviv, particularly the fashion district on Northern Dizengoff Street. The stores were closed, and that was a fortunate thing for my wallet because I knew I had no need to buy any of these clothes. Never mind my suitcases must have been already over the weight limit because of all the artwork, books and souvenirs I already purchased.

But the styles were oh so beautiful:

So, this is why this morning’s picture of a bombed fashion boutique in Ashdod really resonated with me.

Rockets from Gaza hit clothing store in Ashdod, 40 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. Photo by Jerusalem Post staff photographer Nir Elias

This is a picture that I bet will never make it into US papers.  It is not until you walk the streets in Israel, until you drive along her crowded yet modern highways, feel the beauty and the utter vulnerability of the land that you can really understand what is going on there and what Israel needs to do to survive. And thrive.

Israel,  I stand with you.

America, if you want to know what is going on in Israel, do yourself a favor and get your news from The Jerusalem Post.

A Man with a Map. A Woman with a Bottle. Couple work for Rwanda’s Future.

Tony Vodacek, left and, Manasse Mbonye, the provost of the University of Rwanda and a former RIT professor, inspect a coffee plant in Rwanda.

Sometimes, the constraints of print media causes editors and writers to make painful cuts to stories. I had a wonderful conversation with Ann Vodacek, my Brighton neighbor and wife of RIT professor Tony Vodacek about a simple solution that is being used to solve a pervasive problem in Rwanda – using plain water bottles to help purify drinking water with the power of the sun. For space sake, it had to be cut from the print version of my story in the Democrat & Chronicle. I thank both the Vodaceks for all their help with this piece and wish them luck as their work with Rwanda evolves.

Here is the full version of the story.

Tony Vodacek knows his way around a map.

The Brighton resident grew up in Wisconsin and spent summers navigating state and national parks on family camping trips. His wife, Ann Vodacek, describes him as a person who possesses a built-in global positioning system that comes in handy when taking family vacations with their three children in the Adirondacks.

While some people find going to new places disorienting, just hand Vodacek, a Rochester Institute of Technology associate professor, a map and he can locate his destination “in seconds.”

“I never have to ask for directions,” he said.

Throughout his life, Vodacek had an intense interest in maps and the information they reveal. This passion led him to a career in a field called remote sensing, which is the science of obtaining information about geographical areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites.

Vodacek likes to keep and display maps that directly relate to his work. Posted on the door of his office at the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT is a relief map of the tiny African country of Rwanda. There are also photos from his last visit and labels from bags of coffee that represent one of Rwanda’s chief exports.

Vodacek’s friendship with former Brighton resident and RIT astrophysics professor Manasse Mbonye has evolved into a partnership between American and Rwandan academics who seek to advance this African country by providing its people with the knowledge to grow an information infrastructure and ultimately improve the way the water and land are used to create a stable economy.

Mbonye arrived in America as a Rwandan refugee child in the 1960s. After decades of living in America, he returned to Rwanda this year to accept a position as director of academics at the National University of Rwanda.

During his five visits to Rwanda — his most recent trek took place earlier this year — Vodacek met with Mbonye and many government dignitaries, and listened to their visionary optimism for Rwanda. The Rwandan people are trying to reconcile with their recent past and seek to advance this landlocked country with few natural resources by boosting its technology infrastructure and agricultural practices.

“Rwanda is striving to become self-reliant. It no longer wishes to be sustained by institutions like the World Bank. Mbonye said there is no other way for Rwanda (to succeed) except through education. The alternative to this is a dark path that has already been traversed,” said Vodacek, referring to the genocide in the mid-1990s where tribal divisions led to the deaths of nearly 1 million Rwandans.

Now, Vodacek is leading a multi-disciplinary international team of scientists and graduate students — backed with a $350,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation — on a two-year survey of the Lake Kivu system in Rwanda to collect scientific measurements to learn how human activity is threatening biodiversity. Vodacek and his graduate students will study satellite data collected over 40 years to unlock the story of this lake that rests among volcanoes and a mountain gorilla reserve, a lake that one day might erupt from volcanic activity to cause a natural disaster.

“Just like meteorologists use satellite data to forecast weather changes, I use remote sensing to forecast environmental changes,” said Vodacek.

If Rwanda is going to be a technologically advanced country, it is going to need more power. This power can be found at the bottom of Lake Kivu. The lake’s depth is 1,574 feet with fresh water above and saltier, denser water resting on the bottom. The saltwater and sediment at the bottom of the lake trap large reserves of carbon dioxide and methane, sort of the way gas is trapped in an uncorked champagne bottle. For now, the waters are calm. But according to geological studies taken from layers of lake sediment, the lake is overdue for a phenomenon called “turning over.”

Geological studies have found that about every 1,000 years, underwater disruptions in the bottom of Lake Kivu — such as a volcano or an earthquake — caused the denser, gas-laden waters to rise to the surface and release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the valley.

Those releases can be deadly. Vodacek pointed to an incident in Cameroon, where in 1986, a plume of carbon dioxide escaped from Lake Nios and suffocated 1,500 people while they slept.

If such a disruption would happen now, two million people living in the area would be at risk of suffocation. Possibly adding to the mix of disruption to the water is human activity like farming and deforestation. It is here where Vodacek’s research will be applied to see if human intervention might be another reason why gas pressure builds at the bottom of the lake.

Another man-made event that was evident in satellite images was the 1994 genocide. Photographs from space showed forested land in Rwanda that had nearly disappeared as fires were started and displaced people cut down wood for fuel during and after the genocide.

Whether or not human intervention will cause Lake Kivu to release noxious gasses, Vodacek did not need a satellite image to see evidence of deforestation around the lake due to farming practices and the burning of forests during Rwanda’s civil war.

As Vodacek drove along the shores of Lake Kivu, it was also easy to see just how hard it is to farm in a country that hardly has any flat land.

“People are trying to scratch out a living as subsistence farmers on deforested mountains. It looked like some of the farmland was nearly vertical in some areas,” observed Vodacek.

After decades of losing trees, the Rwandan government is studying ways to reforest its land. Remote sensing can help the country explore its options as it weighs the needs of growing food on farmed land versus protecting land and water quality by replanting trees. Should reforestation be widespread and allow for intermittent areas of farmland, or should some tracts of land be densely developed leaving other parts to turn over back to nature? Remote sensing over time can help study these scenarios and answer these questions.

“I’m excited to see what patterns and changes that will come about as Rwanda moves to reforest its land. This is all a very long term experiment and we are only at the beginning of it,” said Vodacek.

In any case, planting more native trees can only improve the quality of the water in Lake Kivu.  Deforestation coupled with farming causes soil erosion, nutrient depletion and water runoff into the lake. These practices make for poor drinking water quality leading to water borne diseases especially among Rwandan’s children. It is this issue that has caught the attention of Vodacek’s wife, Ann.

A social worker by trade, Ann is in the beginning phases of working with Rwandans she has met through her husband’s work to improve drinking water by a method called Solar Water Disinfection, or SODIS. Used successfully in other countries like Kenya and India, it is a method as simple as killing harmful bacteria in drinking water by filling up plastic water bottles and leaving them to sit in the sun for six hours.

It’s that simple. The hard part, according to Ann, is gaining the trust and changing the habits of rural villagers.

Ann listened to the frustrations of a young Rwandan doctor who spent time in the United States to complete his residency.

“Rwandans who are studying medicine are trying to go back to their villages and teach mothers that it is not normal for children to suffer from swollen bellies or diarrhea. But it is going to take trust and some education for villagers to change this way of thinking,” said Ann. Improved health among Rwandan villagers can only lead to overall quality of life for the whole country, she added.

Where is Queen Esther When we need her? Why Purim is relavant today.

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There has been much media coverage this week about the showdown between Israel and Iran.  This is not the first time in history when Iran threatened genocide against the Jews.

Today is International Women’s Day. It is also the Jewish holiday of Purim. As the real life story line of life plays  out in the news this week, it contains enough twists and turns and ironies to make one believe that some supreme power is having a hand in its design.

Often thought of as a children’s holiday or the “Jewish Halloween” where kids get to dress up in costume, Purim holds many grown up lessons about speaking out against bullying, standing up for oneself and most importantly, to take threats of annihilation – especially if one nation threatens to wipe out another nation – very seriously.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, or you see Jewish children dressing up and think it must be a springtime Halloween for Jews, here is a video to fill you in on the story:

The Story of Purim

Another coincidence in time and news events this week is how much Iran has been in the news on the week we celebrate women. Iran has some pretty abysmal standings for women’s rights. However, it is also on this day that we celebrate the courage of one woman living in ancient Persia,  circa 6th Century B.C.E.  It was Esther, who, encouraged by her uncle Mordechai, was picked in a beauty contest by King Achashveros, made queen, and revealed her Jewish identity in the nick of time to reveal Haman’s plot to kill her people.

Death. Gallows. Wearing Sackcloth and ashes.

Wait. Wait! This is supposed to be a happy holiday! In fact, right after I write this post, I’m going out to celebrate and deliver baskets of food, or mishloach manot, to my friends and neighbors.

Purim is a joyous holiday because the outcome could have been so sad.

The story dramatically flips from certain annihilation to redemption and defeat of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Does this scenario sound relevant to this week’s news? Of course it does.

Eerily. this year’s Purim celebration comes on the heels of the 2012 Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The centerpiece of the week’s AIPAC agenda: the increasing Iranian threat of this country’s nuclear capabilities. The potential for another Holocaust. Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to stop this threat.

If the news of the week plays out like a Purim play, brave Mordechai, Esther’s uncle who knew somehow ahead of time that danger was coming to the Jews, was played by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

We all know who is playing the evil villan Haman.

Time and time again, Bibi has warned the United States just how serious the situation with Iran has become. Israel should not have to wait for permission from another country to determine their survival or destiny. This is the cornerstone of why Israel exists, for Jewish survival. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been warning the world for 15 years now on the dangers of  Iran developing a nuclear missile. The media call him impatient on wanting to act instead of talking.

Is waiting for  15 years for action impatient?

And as far as the part of the foolish King Achasverous? Well, that would be our president. President Barak Obama.

I did vote for him. And because I cannot stand the rest of the Republican platform stands for, I guess I’ll have to vote for him again.

President Obama this week said to AIPAC the US doesn’t have the stomach to get involved in another war in the Middle East. This week he claimed that he has seen too many consequences of war. It is he who must sign letters to the families of deceased American soldiers.

You know what, President Obama?  Israel doesn’t want war either. Because in Israel, everyone serves in the army. In Israel, unlike the here in the US, the bomb shelters are just a little more visible, a little more a part of day-to-day awareness in Israeli society. They are not some dusty, outdated Cold War shelters. Ask a resident of Modi’in, where there is a safe room in every apartment. And school.

And Israel does not want to hurt the people of Iran. Ironically, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East resides in Iran. The Jewish community in Iran is said to be between 25,000 and 35,000 people.

So hopefully, maybe, maybe, the sanctions will work. When we pray, we pray to frustrate the plans of our enemies, not to see them die.  Just this week, the Ayatollah said he would allow U.N. inspectors into some of Iran’s “secret” military installations. But then again, the Nazis in 1943 allowed the Red Cross into its Theresienstadt  concentration camp to show the world how well they were treating the Jews.

Are we really going to be that nieve again when evil stares us in the face?

Once again, gallows are being built in Persia for the Jews. But they are also being constructed for us, the US.

Just as Modechai warned Esther as she sat pretty in the castle:  don’t think that just because we are sitting an ocean away, in our proverbial American castle, that we will be safe. Now is the time to act.

So, I ask again, where is our Queen Esther when we need her?

What to do when you are the “not-quite-Out-of-Town guests?”

semi-finals at a Bat Mitzvah Hula Hoop Contest. How long can she spin 12 hoops at once?

semi-finals at a Bat Mitzvah Hula Hoop Contest. How long can she spin 12 hoops at once?

To anyone reading this who lives in a BIG metro area like Los Angeles, New York City, Toronto…. let me ask you this:

If you are invited to a wedding/Bar Mitzvah/christening/fill-in-the-blank life occasion across town with a religious service in the morning and party at night,do you get a hotel room for the weekend?

I didn’t think so.

If you are the planner of a big life event occasion and invite many out-of-town guests, do you pull out all the stops in providing them with extra special treatment: (reserve a block of hotel rooms, extra dinners and brunches, goodie bags in their hotel rooms)?

Of course you do, they are the out-of-towners!

This past weekend, my whole family was invited to the Bat Mitzvah of a friend my son made in Camp Ramah. My daughter is friends with the girl’s sister, and our two families have developed this great Camp Ramah connection over the years. We were very honored to be invited to this happy occasion as a family. There are too many sad occasions in life that we juggle our lives to attend,so why not do a little schlepping for the happy ones?

As a kid growing up in Staten Island, I remember going to weddings and bar mitzvahs,  and later on youth group dances “out on the Island” – in this case Long Island. My dad had a special name for this stretch of suburbia that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It didn’t matter where your destination was on the Island. Any trip from SI to LI was  to a place called “all the way out” on the Island.

I remember the traffic as we traveled and my dads angry muttering at the wheel. There was traffic on the Belt. The BQE. The LIE. And the GCP. (If you don’t know what these stand for, you are not from NYC.) It would take what seemed hours to get anywhere. And still does.

In reality, the distance in miles was only 40 miles or so, but it was the traffic that made the journey take hours.  But never did my parents  think about getting a hotel room or consider staying overnight. Because LI was still considered “in town.”  I remember drowsy drives back to the other island, Staten Island, when my brother and I would fall asleep in the back in our party clothes, my parents singing doo-wop oldies tunes to their heart’s content in the front seat.

Drive over an hour in the New York Metro Area, you are still in the New York Metro area.

Drive over an hour in Rochester, you are in Buffalo

So, at the beginning of the weekend, when we parted with friends at a Friday night dinner and announced to our Rochester friends we were headed to Buffalo for a Bat Mitzvah, they actually said to us “Have a nice trip!”

When you are transplantednorth, traveling an hour to go for a visit is nothing. Staying at a hotel overnight was out of the question.But the question remained, how were we going to pull this day off?

The day came with logistical challenges. We left our house very early Saturday morning to get to the synagogue in Buffalo**. We had to pack two extra sets of clothes for each family member, one casual outfit for hanging around the hotel, and then more formal attire for the evening party. Plus bathing suits because the kids were invited to swim in the hotel pool, so that meant toiletries too, but where to shower?

When we got to Buffalo, we sat through a very nice warm service and at the luncheon reception, known as the kiddush, we made fast friends with several couples who all were from out-of-town to bring their children, also campers, to celebrate their friends’ Bat Mitzvah. I told them we were “from” Rochester, but as conversations went on, our native accents revealed themselves.

As we relaxed that afternoon in the hotel lobby, one of the dads spoke up and asked my husband and I: “You didn’t grow  up in Rochester, did you?  Where are you really from?”

That night, after eating and dancing to the sounds provided by a DJ company called the Bar Mitzvah Boys – who are from Rochester – we didn’t get home until 1 a.m. For my husband and I, it was now our turn to stay awake and sing while the kids slept in the back all the way home.

**Yes, we drive on Shabbat. Conservative Judaism has a decree that allows one to drive if it is to worship at a synagogue. There was some irony to all this, because once we arrived in Buffalo, we had nowhere to go and nothing to do but  read and chat with some real “out-of-town” guests who invited us to spend the afternoon at their hotel. So, we did drive, but in the end had a very relaxing Shabbat.

Photo Challenge of the Week: Distorted

My husband and I joke that our kids are pretty warped. But at the Museum of Glass in Corning, they had fun distorting and twisting their images, like this:

and then, my son grabbed my iTouch and used the CamWow feature to do this:

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See, they truly are warped, and I love them for it!

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