Archive | October 2011

If we knew you were coming… the art of the R.S.V.P.

A friend of mine recently took on a community outreach job where she has to arrange free events for a local non-profit organization.

The carefully targeted invitees are sent invitations both by snail mail and e-mail. The invitations are sent in a timely manner and indicate the event is free but space is limited and one must RSVP to attend.

There is a handy email address to send a response, a mailer to mail back, and a website to also let the event organizer of ones decision of attending or not attending.

At such a recent family friendly event, I watched my friend fly around the event venue in a panic.  Around 25 families responded that they would be coming.  Double that amount had lined up outside the door, waiting to come in. She feared she did not have enough forks or plates, or food ordered for the unexpected who showed up. Would she run out of craft supplies and disappoint some unsuspecting children. After all, it wasn’t their fault if their parents failed to R.S.V.P. And, in an event with a purpose to create inclusiveness, it would be wrong and off-putting to turn people away.

Do you R.S.V.P. yes  or no to every invite you receive?

To an event planner, that yes or no response makes the difference between having enough pre-cut craft pieces or not having enough. It is the difference between having enough juice boxes for the kids whose parents responded or having to turn people away with kids who may have wanted to do a craft project and a juice box but didn’t respond and feeling badly about it. And, if you don’t RSVP to an event like a wedding that requires head counts by the caterer or table seating arrangements, you may quickly fall off invitee lists of the future.

This problem seems systematic in my community, I wonder if this goes on everywhere. Are the e-vites that appear in our overloaded e-mail and social networking in boxes not as significant as the invitations that are mailed to us the old-fashioned way?

Now, am I innocent of the crime of not RSVPing to something, and then showing up? Absolutely not.

A few months ago, I had plans to attend what I thought was an informal learning session after Saturday morning services at my synagogue. What I, in my hurry in reading the email, failed to see that it was a LUNCH and learn, and one had to RSVP.

I didn’t RSVP

As a result, I felt like a heel. An idiot.

I had  no premade name tag. No table tent had been carefully prepared by an administrative assistant who made ones for  those who made it their business to RSVP in a timely manner.

There was food. None of it was ordered for me. Because they didn’t think I was coming.

So, I took no food. Not until after all the people who had the decency to respond had theirs first. Even though people said no worries, I should go up and help myself. No, I thought. I didnt’ RSVP properly. It served me right.

So, if you get in your email or social networking inbox an event, remember there are people behind that invite who have a lot of details to take care of, budgets to stay within, name tags to print and a finite number of  sandwiches to order.

Even if you have to say ‘no,’ a regret is far more appreciated than no response at all.

Speak trippingly on the tongue – the complete works of Shakespeare in 90 minutes at Pittsford Mendon HS

Make use of
time, let not advantage slip.

William Shakespeare

As a columnist who has to write ahead, I am always thinking two weeks into the future. But, in the whirlgig of time, I was not in time on writing an advance for a great high school play taking place this weekend. But this sounds too auspicious of an event, and I had too good a time looking up Shakespeare quotes not to share. Thanks to all my friends on Facebook who fed me with witty Shakespearean quotes and sources for this post:

The Sutherland High School players present a fall comedy, The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged. This parody incorporates all the plays written by William Shakespeare into one show and will be on the SHS stage October 27, 28, and 29 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at the door for $10 each.

“This is different from anything I’ve ever done before,” said Colin Perinello, a senior who will major in musical theatre next fall at a college to be determined.

“In one sentence, I have to use a high falsetto voice when I say Juliet’s line, then have to drop to a deeper voice in a Scottish accent when I am the narrator. Sometimes, I mix up my voices and roles, so what comes out is a twisted Juliet with a Scottish accent. Let’s just say it is a very humourous outcome,” he said.

In our world of 140 character tweets, it’s refreshing to know that there are still high school kids out there who will put on puffy shirts, tights and kilts and learn the poetry of Shakespeare.  But, in this age of short attention-span theatre, this play indeed makes “use of time” to “let not advantage slip” as snippets of all 37 Shakespearean plays are squeezed into this upcoming 90 minute performance.

This weekend, I’m planning on seeing the movie Anonymous, a movie with a premise that Shakespeare never wrote a word. Shakespeare: was he or wasn’t he? But in the end, does it matter?

Is one life worth it?

I usually don’t like when Israel is in the news. That is because US media coverage of Israel is rarely about the medical advances of Israeli doctors, or technological breakthroughs that happen in this tiny country with the world’s most high-tech startups per capita.

Coverage is usually about Occupation. Conflict. Tit-for-tat attacks and “disproportionate acts of aggression” by Israel to her neighbors, most who are hell-bent on the destruction of the only country on the planet with a Jewish majority.

So last week, when news first surfaced about Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in 2006 by Hamas, I immediately thought it was bad news. The person who was telling me the potentially good news was sitting in the passenger seat of my car. She was a teacher. And she had vested interest in the outcome of one of the most unprecedented prisoner exchanges in Israeli history. Because she was Israeli.

My guest was Inbar, one person in an eight-member Israeli delegation visiting Rochester area schools, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as part of the Partnership 2Gether Education Bridge program, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

Israeli teachers and community leaders visited both religious and secular public schools such
as Scribner Elementary School in Penfield, Webster High School; and Twelve
Corners Middle School and French Road Elementary School in Brighton. Questions
from children in younger grades included what types of sports are played and
what kids wear in Israel. High school students posed more ethical questions
about religious diversity and the current prisoner swap that unfolded each day
of the Israeli’s visit.

They stayed with hosts, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Does it shock you that Israeli Jews, like many Americans, struggle with their own Jewish identity? Is living in Israel enough for them?

The Israelis left Rochester with an enormous appreciation of the degree at which Americans tolerate one another’s different customs, religions and different levels of observance. They hopped around in our sukkahs. They attended services in our synagogues and many of them saw women participating in religious congregational life for the first time. Women here can be rabbis. Women here in America can read from and be called to the Torah for an aliyah. Then, they went shopping.

From what our Israeli guests told me, many have chosen a purely secular life, though in Israel, all Jewish holidays are national ones. Most Israelis are tired of being dictated by the religious right, which have a very strong hold on government. But, after visiting American Jews, who try to mix traditions with modernism, they want to welcome back Jewish traditions into their lives, but on their terms. As secular as they are, the lives of Israelis, including decisions made by the Israel Defense Forces, are governed by Jewish values. One of these values is the commandment of Pidyon Shvuyim, the redemption of captives.

As the week went on, the pending release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for Arabs with known blood on their hands, weighed heavily on our guest’s minds. Was it really true? Was Gilad coming home at last? And would he be released alive?

Gilad was kept in our hearts, prayers, and classrooms all week. We read from a story that Gilad wrote when he was only 11 years old. It had been illustrated and published into a book. It has been read by children the world over as a message of peace.

In the very early hours of Oct. 18, I climbed the stairs to the guest bedroom in my attic to wake Inbar with some very good news. Gilad Shalit, 25, was home and free.

Many have questioned the logic of this lopsided swap. As TV coverage streamed the news later that day at a gym where I was working out, a fitness instructor apologized if her question sounded crass, but she asked if he was worth it.

What do you think? Is one life worth saving?

October in New York: East Hill Farm/Folk Art Guild Open House

Last Sunday morning, though I could have slept in, I woke up early. I woke up my family too. I told them we were about to take a trip into the country. No, we weren’t going through a corn Maze.No, there would be no pumpkin catapult contests. But I promised them, they would enjoy it. They were going to have a good time. Because I SAID SO!

Life has been way too hectic lately. I feel like I have barely seen my three children since late June. It seems like no sooner did my older son and daughter return from sleep-away camp and I washed all their laundry, the summer ended and so began the school grind. Homework and tests.  Track meets and band practice.

But last Sunday morning, we had this glorious sunny perfect day. And we had no school and no work. I just wanted one chore-free day of me not nagging anyone spent out in the country. One day of me not badgering anyone to stop texting friends while I am talking to them or stop playing games on the computer.

So off we went.

The ride along Canandaigua Lake had the whole family, plus a friend of my son’s, singing along to “American Pie” on the radio and marveling at the colors of the trees that dotted the hills

as we whizzed past withering cornfields.

To reach our destination: the East Hill  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm and Folk Art Guild in beautiful, Middlesex, NY. There, we got a chance to see where our vegetables were grown all summer.

East Hill Farm is a project of the Rochester Folk Art Guild, a nonprofit organization and community of craftspeople and farmers. Since 1967, they have grown food and produced handmade practical folk art on a 350 acre farm. East Hill Farm uses old fashioned, chemical-free, hands-on organic methods to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs, pigs, and chickens for the community and for sale through our CSA and markets.

For the past 20 weeks, our family took part in a great experiment of owning a CSA share. Each Friday since mid-May we were presented with a portion of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers organically and lovingly grown by a group of young entrepreneurial farmers.   Whether it was spring’s excessive rains or July’s excessive heat, we shared in the farmers’ risky dance with Mother Nature.

The farm had limited cell phone service so we got a chance to sample the simpler, slower style of life. We actually got a chance to catch up, share and talk as a family. How many times are family members distracted from each other by screens: laptops, DS games, cell phones, iPods?

Well, on this day in October my teen-aged daughter actually sat and talked to me.  She sat and reminisced with me about the first time she used  a pottters wheel this summer at camp as we watched a master potter throw and mold a clay jar before our eyes:

How many toys, clothing, dishes do we buy that are made of cheaply made mass-produced?

At East Hill Farm, in the woodworking shop, bare-footed craftsmen showed off their lathes.

And my kids played with real wooden toys.

Made in the USA.

Then, in the weaver’s studio, my son got to try his hand at a loom, using wool that was dyed by an apprentice, the same young woman who brings us our week’s worth of vegetables. Thank you, East Hill Farm farmers. It’s been a great summer.

Behold, I am the drain whisperer

Nothing, NOTHING gets me more bent out of shape than a clogged drain in the shower or sink.  I obsess over it. I can do nothing else until I can witness that ultimate sound of water flowing effortlessly through a clear drain, the appearance of the tornado-like whirlpool signaling that the block has been unblocked.

And when you live in a house that is nearly 90 years old as I do, I can look forward to this cycle of first frustration and then elation every three months.

At first, we try to ignore it. For some reason, we don’t learn from one clogged cycle to the next.  We don’t use those plastic guards to keep the long hair of mine and my daughter’s from going down the drain.  Nor do we consider shorter hairstyles to prevent the buildup of (ewwwww) hair.

Yes, this is gross. But perhaps a topic that most can relate to have the stomach to read on.

So, as we stand in the tepid water that accumulates around our toes, we think, “maybe this will work itself out….”

But then, one fateful morning, my husband leaves for work, not telling me that the shower is clogged, seemingly for good. And my kids don’t bother to tell me their sink is clogged until it is overflowing between the original basket-weaved floor tiles, through the floor boards, and into my repeatedly plastered dining room ceiling. In desperation, I hoist the new dining room table from harm’s way of the water trickling down the dining room chandelier.

Then, it is time for my mission, my quest to unclog the clog.

First, I try the method that will do the least harm to the environment and my pipes: A cup of baking soda followed with a cup of white vinegar. The mixture momentarily fizzes in the sink or shower…. and then… nothing. Clog still there. No motion in the murky waters.

I go downstairs. Have breakfast. A cup of coffee. All the while killing time to see if there is any progress, any movement.

After about an hour, I get out the plunger.  No luck. Another cup each of vinegar and baking soda. Another wait. Another plunge. Still no luck.

Frustration. Black goopy muck seeping from my drain. I’m about to give up. I’m about to call my husband and cry and ask him to pick up some deadly chemical substance.

But then, suddenly, the waters subside. I achieve swirl. The clog is unplugged. I have conquered the clog, once again.

My drain is clear. My work is done. I am hit with a wave of triumph.

Screw college. I should have been a plumber… I would have been making a lot more money by now.

Curbing Anger, Switching to Decaf: Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar, begins tonight at sundown. It is a day of deep self-reflection and examination. Included in the liturgy of the day is a prayer we say over and over again throughout the 25-hour fast. The Al Cheyt prayer is a laundry list of sins and transgressions that we may have committed during the year. Most of them are not against Gd. The big sins listed are not: I played golf on Saturday instead of attending synagogue; or I ate a bacon double cheeseburger at McDonald’s ……

Most of the transgressions that are found within the prayers in Yom Kippur involve what fellow human beings do and think about one another. Most of the sins involve our ill behaviour. Most of the sins involve crimes of ill speech.

I asked my Hebrew school students what wrongdoings they see in their immediate lives. And from what they told me, we live in an angry society.

  • One student, while waiting in line at Wegmans, overheard a customer yelling at a cashier that she had charged her too much for an item.
  • Another student, again at Wegmans, witnessed one customer chasing another customer claiming that he had hit her shopping cart with his and had not apologized.
  • One kid said his dad yelled way too much
  • Another hand went up and a seventh grader confessed that his mom got mad because a food server at a Bruggers Bagels informed her that they did not have the exact flavor of bagel she had requested.

Road rage. Rage against stewardesses on airplanes. Angry Birds. Let’s face it, there is way too much anger in our society.

I am no innocent in this department.

This week my family experienced an onslaught of technical difficulties. My bottom freezer would not seal properly and there was a snowstorrm of frost accumulating. I quickly blamed this in my youngest son, who often puts all his weight (well, he is only in the fifth percentile of his age group for weight) on the freezer door when looking for an ice cream treat. The frostier my freezer became, the angrier I got at my son.

My computer, a Lenovo, which really turned out to be a Lemono, had to go back in the shop,for a third time. I was getting very angry at the business that sold me this computer.

As I spent the entire Monday morning waiting for the Sears repairman to come for my freezing freezer, I could feel my anger swelling. Where was he? Why did  I have to reschedule my day and wait around from 8 a.m to 12 p.m. and here it was 12 and he still had not yet arrived?

When he did come, I did not greet him as warmly as I should.   But he did to me. Mike the Sears repair guy shook my hand as he humbly apologized for being stuck at another call all morning fixing a tricky washing machine. He put on plastic booties over his shoes so he would not bring extra dirt into my already messy house.

He quickly pulled all the shelving out of my freezer. Got to the bottom of the problem: too much build-up of frost around the door. My son was off the hook. Mike also remarked that he had been here before and asked how my oven was doing.

He had been to my house to repair an oven I had long replaced. He remembered me.

After cleaning out my freezer, he apologized for getting melted ice on my floor as he replaced the freezer shelving. My anger melted.
“Really, it’s all okay.” I said.

God sends signs in funny ways to help us put life in perspective. Sometimes, it’s in the form of Mike the repairman.

This year, I will pray to try once again to stop myself from jumping to angry conclusions.

Maybe curbing my caffeine habit will help. At the very least, it will prevent a caffeine withdrawal headache that is bound to hit most of us fasters by 2 p.m. tomorrow.

May your Yom Kippur Fast be one that is meaningful and anger-free.

Yes, the Beatles are Immortal

In my crazy rushed day, my son added to the craziness by declaring that, yet again, his glasses were in desperate need of repair.

I didn’t get my workout in.  I had a little over an hour before my Hebrew school class.  

I was really stressed.

 But my son’s nose, without the proper padding that had fallen off his glasses, was really scratched. So, I said I would take him to the Twelve Corners Optician only if we ran there.  So we did. We ran because I knew  that picking out another pair of glasses was going to take much more time than I had, and time was running short.

We were making good time, until we arrived at 12 Corners Plaza. A group of high school boys were slowly walking in front of us. Slowly, as if they had nowhere else in the world to be. And at 16 or 17, that’s the way one should look upon an after-school afternoon.

I started getting annoyed that they were in my way, until I heard one starting to sing.

This kid, born decades after the British Invasion, born two generations after the Beatles first landed at JFK International airport, was singing a Beatles tune. He wasn’t rapping or singing some horrid contemporary pop tune, but a song that was older than he and would outlast anything on the radio now.

Instantly I was calmed.  And I couldn’t help but harmonize walking behind him, until his friends told him that he could NOT sing in the pizzeria.

Why my Lenovo should be renamed “Lemono”

After I write this post, I’m off to the computer store again. To have the computer geeks fix my computer. Again.

Did I mention to you that I’ve only had my brand new Lenovo ThinkPad for two months?

Am I writing to you from my new Lenovo laptop? No. I’ve had to wait my turn to get my hands on my kids’ laptop while they are in schoool. I’m trapped in my own parental-protection Netnanny web that I’ve set up on this computer – a Gateway. I’ve blocked myself from all inappropriate material on the web and I only have about 30 minutes of Internet time before Netnanny boots me off.

Why am I not writing on my own computer? Because my brand new computer crashed – again – two nights ago. After my very capable husband backed up and restored my overpriced paperweight only two nights ago, I fired up my Lenovo yesterday morning to find that it no longer has wireless Internet detection hardware.

Every time, and believe me, I tried all day, to create a new wireless connection, to enter in the ISP and password that Time Warner bestowed upon me, I got an 

Error 737 message.  

 Of course, my computer failed to tell me what Error 737 means. Then, it offered me a chance to troubleshoot, but even that provided no solutions.  And, as you can see, my childrens’ computer has no problems connecting to the web. So it must be my computer’s hard drive.

Did I mention that I just had the hard drive replaced on my brand new Lenovo less than one month ago? And it took Lenovo over a week to send my computer fix-it guy a new hard drive?

If you have a Lenovo, what problems, if any, have you had? I’m looking to get my money back for a different brand. What laptop would you suggest?

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