Archive | April 2012

Ick. My Kid had a Tick. Here’s what to watch out for this Spring

Any time I get a call from the school nurse,I know it’s not good. I’ve gotten calls about broken arms and feet. Pink Eye and broken eyeglasses. But perhaps the scariest call was one I got just last week.

The school nurse at the school where my youngest child attends called with the news that a tick had been removed from his neck.

As my head reeled from the news,  the nurse said that the good news was that it was not embedded, they got the whole thing out, and the tick in question was waiting for me to take to the pediatrician’s office.

Well, thank goodness for small favors.

I answered the nurse’s questions.

No, we don’t have a pet.

No, we have not been wading through any fields with high grasses. So, where on earth could my son have picked up a tick??

When I arrived at school shortly after the dismissal buses left, the circle of teachers hanging about outside the nurse’s office chattering about things like “Lyme Disease” and “they’re running rampant this year” were not comforting words to encounter at all.

“Emm, hello? I’m the mom with the kid with the tick,” I said, trying to drop the hint that the teachers should watch what they have to say lest an extremely freaked out neurotic parent happened to be in the hallway.

Once in the nurse’s office, I found my son happy and not freaked out at all but seemingly fascinated at the tiny parasite that had tried to suck his blood. The tick was safely contained within a prescription medicine bottle. The child was actually concerned for the tick’s well-being. Was he lonely or hungry in there? Would he run out of oxygen? Apparently, my son was under the impression he  had acquired a new pet.

According to an article in yesterday’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, tick season will come on earlier this year and be more severe than in recent years because of the warmer weather. And, as the earth heats up, more severe than normal tick seasons will unfortunately become the norm.

Tips to avoid ticks include:

  • Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts when walking in wooded and grassy areas. (The only thing is, my child got a tick simply by being out on the school playground).
  • Use an insect repellent with DEET
  • Those with long hair should tie it back when hiking or gardening.
  • After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.
  • Stay on trails when you hike. If you leave the path, wear long pants tucked into your socks.
  • If you find ticks, remove them immediately. Pinch the tick near its mouth and pull it out slowly in a continuous motion. Don’t twist the tick because doing so may leave mouth partsembedded in the skin

The good news for my son and for those of us living up north:

My son’s tick friend was a common Dog Tick or Wood Tick. These ticks do not carry Lyme’s Disease.

Deer Ticks, the Lyme’s Disease carrying variety, are less common in Northern areas like Western New York and there are very few cases of Lyme’s Disease.

So, enjoy the outdoors this spring and summer, but if someone (like my son’s classmate) says there is a small bug on you, don’t take it for granted. Let’s be safe out there!

Three Videos to Watch about how Israel honors its Memorial and Independence Days

I teach Hebrew school in the afternoons to sixth graders.

As a teacher, my greatest wish is for my students, my budding Jewish scholars,  to ask deep meaningful questions about God, Judaism and our 5,000 year old tradition.

Can you guess what their most asked question is when their hands go up in my class, after being in public school all day?

If you guessed: “Can I go to the bathroom?” or “Can I get a drink of water,” or “Are we going to get a chance to play?” you would be on the right track;  except my students need to pose their question in Hebrew.

But today, when they asked me, I turned their questions back on them: Are you really thirsty? How badly do you need that drink? And … what if there was just nowhere to go to the bathroom?

This week, as in Israel, Jews have come off the sorrow of observing Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It will be a challenge for these kids — the last generation to have any access to the first-account testimony from survivors — to get a comprehension of the enormity of the loss and the depths of cruelty suffered by the Jews who endured and who did not endure through the Holocaust.

But perhaps they could understand it through their own most basic needs, the needs of kids just like them during the darkest years of humanity. They looked at pictures of kids starving on the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, asking for food when there was none. They read an account of a girl who “stole” an icicle to get water to drink when there was none.  They read about kids in hiding who asked for a bathroom but there was none; too risky.

Of course I let my students go get a drink of water and go to the bathroom, but when posed with these questions about survival and enduring the unendurable, they thought twice today before they asked.

Over the last week, Israelis have been on an emotional roller coaster ride: They observe Holocaust Remembrance Day, then Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, then move right into the triumph and joy (and yes, barbecues) of Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day. But how to convey these emotions to Jewish American kids who are tired after a long day of school on a rainy and cold April Day?

Youtube, of course!

Here are three videos I showed my students today. The first shows Israeli soldiers, strong, young and proud, singing Ani Ma’amin – I believe. A song that was sung as an act of spiritual resistance by the Jews in the concentration camps even as they faced death:

One of my students said, this song makes me want to cry. Crying about the Holocaust is okay, I said. It’s part of the learning.

This video shows how Israelis honor their fallen soldiers, by observing a complete two minutes of stillness by the sound of  a siren. Even cars on the highway stop:

After seeing this, one of my students said “This is how we should honor Memorial Day in America!”

Finally, the singing of Hatikvah (The Hope), the Israeli National Anthem, and this is not your typical Hatikvah:

Funny, but when watching these videos, not a single hand went up to ask to go to the bathroom.

Happy Birthday, Israel!

Lilac in the April Snow

How can this be? Last week, exactly last week, it was nearly 90 degrees. I went for a walk with a friend and we couldn’t seem to drink enough water. Stopped on my way home for an iced coffee, worrying how my kids would make it through their track practice. This is how: I had about five kids making a water break stop at my house along their running route.

Last week, I picked a bouquet from my garden that looked like this:

And today, we pulled out the parkas and boots one more time. I had to go digging under the car seats for the snow brush that I hardly used this virtually snow-free winter.

How can this happen? I’ll tell you. I live in Rochester.

Rochester, where lilacs rule supreme in late April and May. Rochester has the country’s largest lilac collection and we celebrate this each year with our annual lilac festival.

This year, in spite of their very early bloom and the damage to 10 percent of Highland Park’s lilac bushes, some of them 120 years old, the Rochester  Lilac Festival is set for May 11-20. It is one of Rochester’s most popular events, attracting thousands of visitors.

But this morning, my lilac bush looked like this:

Those lilac branches yesterday were reaching up to my second story window. I can’t imagine what the rest of spring and then summer has in store this year, can you?

I thought I would repost this … in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

Stacy Gittleman

Since I’ve returned from Israel with my family,  friends and acquaintances stop and ask me:”So, how was your trip?”

As much as I like talking about the trip, it is just so hard to sum up Israel in a quick conversation in the produce aisle. My husband is also experiencing the same when asked this question at work. How was the trip? Well, in a word: life-altering? Or, how about, transformative?

To start retelling a multi-generation trip of a lifetime to Israel, unfortunately one has to start with the hard things first. It is only from these low points: visiting the Har Herzl National cemetery, and then the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, can one only understand the miracle that is Israel and how hard we have to work to never, ever take for granted the existence of this tiny country.

Before I take you to the heights of happiness of three generations celebrating…

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just returned from Yom Hashoah service in my community. The survivors are dying and with it I fear is the raw horror and the inhumanity that seared the Holocaust into my generation’s memory. The question of how to transmit and honor the victims as first hand witnesses are being lost to us remains. There is no gentle way to teach the Holocaust and I fear that second-hand accounts are not hitting it home for the kids in my children’s generation. So, what now?

Stacy Gittleman


Leon Posen, a congregant from my synagogue, passed last week. He lived to the age of 94, blessed with a long life that could have been cut very short.  His passing is still a sad one.  Leon was a Holocaust survivor.

As the years and decades stretch away from World War II and Hitler’s war against the Jews, there are fewer people to tell first hand accounts of what happened in the ghettos and the concentration camps in Europe.

So  who will bear witness in generations to come? Even if we don’t have a direct personal connection to the Holocaust, it is our turn to hear as many accounts as possible, and then tell them to the next generation. This is the only way to keep the vow of Never Again.

In Rochester, about 300 area Hebrew school kids in grades 6-12 watched their peers put on a play called…

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The Bronx is Blooming

Just got back from a visit from “the old country,” New York City, to visit family and friends. And I can’t stop raving about The Bronx.

We just returned from a place blooming with lilies and hyacinth, filled with beautiful views of the Palisades, the Hudson River and gracious stately homes and gardens.

I’m talking about the Bronx here. Da Bronx. Really!

As a fifth-generation native New Yorker, a lot of my family has roots in the Bronx. My father and grandfathers were born there as well as my father-in-law. But, at the height of the urban blight of the 1970s and 1980s, it was not exactly somewhere we went exploring when I was growing up outside of a trip to the Bronx Zoo.

When most think of the Bronx, they conjure images like urban blight.  A crumbling school in the south Bronx that caught fire shortly before game 2 of the 1977 World Series inspired the book “The Bronx is Burning ” by Jonathan Mahler

Or, perhaps they think of the massive, impersonal apartment complexes they sluggishly traverse the Cross Bronx Expressway on their way to the Long Island Sound or the George Washington Bridge :

But on my last visit, my family and I got to visit the Bronx’s best-kept secrets: The Cloisters Museum and Wave Hill.

The Cloisters, right on the Manhattan-Bronx border, is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in European Medieval Art. It is set in a castle-like building jutting over the Hudson River set on four acres of parkland. If you have the time on your next visit and already paid admission to the main branch of the Met on Fifth Avenue, you can treat yourself to this as well:

View of George Washington Bridge from Fort Tryon Park

Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center

Further up the road, and I’m talking a country road that makes one feel as if they are in the middle of the countryside and not just 10 miles from Midtown Manhattan, is Wave Hill. Surrounded by 19th Century mansions,

Wave Hill is a semi-private park that consists of gardens and mansions once leased by the Roosevelts and Mark Twain. In the 1960’s, the Perkins-Freeman family, founding partners of J.P. Morgan, donated the land to New York City, allowing the rest of us New Yorkers, for a small admission fee, to afford views like this:

So, next time you find yourself in New York City, do yourself a favor and visit upper Manhattan and The Bronx. You might find a unicorn:

Or even a fair Bronx princess:

Fire on Staten Island

The view out the window from my childhood bedroom in Staten Island is still the same.  to a few more townhouses with tiny yards and tiny round pools, and then a golden field of wetland marshes with a strip of blue of the Atlantic Ocean in near distance. The field surrounded our neighborhood on three sides. On very clear days you could see the New Jersey Shore out my window.

Most kids in New York City don’t get a view like this, or hear the sounds of mockingbirds or red-winged blackbirds in the early spring, and then the chirping of crickets and the peeping of frogs at night in the summertime. But Staten Island kids like me, who grew up at the edge of a field, have their senses filled up with country-like sounds and sights and smells while at the same time living at the dooorstep to the busiest, noisiest city in the world.

This week, on a visit back to Staten Island, I was also reminded of one of the dangers of living so close to a field: brush fires. I remember the orange and the heat and the black smoke of these fires as they wrapped around our neighborhood: my parents and neighbors hosing down their siding when the flames got really close, the black ashes that fell from the sky.

This time, the fire was not near my house but came from inside the notorious site of the former Fresh Kills Landfill. Apparently, the brush that was collected as a result from last summer’s Hurricane Irene ignited because it has been so hot and dry.

This white, acrid-smelling fog filled the island and there was no escape from it. You could even smell it inside the Staten Island Mall.

Luckily, no one was hurt and no houses were damaged. But it gave SI a grim reminder of what smog and smoke they could be facing if the city went ahead with plans to open a waste-to-energy plant around this very spot. 

Brighton Woman Fights Cancer Again, this time with a little help from her son

I’m away right now, back downstate, but wanted to repost  my latest D&C column, as my web links don’t last forever. Spending time with family and friends for Passover, just after my in-laws lost two close friends to cancer. My sister-in-law has a friend going through cancer treatment for liver cancer….. how many others around you do you know who are living with cancer?  

9/2014 – Sad to report that Anne passed away after a courageous battle with cancer at the end of the summer. So sorry to hear about her loss and may her family find a way to keep her memory alive for her children.

When it comes to cancer, national statistics don’t always paint the same picture of the stories around you.

According to an October 2011 report by the American Cancer Society, the rate of cancer cases in women fell by one-half of a percentage point per year from 1998 through 2006.

But in my own personal circles of women in their late 30s and 40s, it just feels like cancer is on the rise.

Right now, I can count at least eight friends and acquaintances, women I know from my synagogue and women I know through my children’s schools, who are currently undergoing or are recovering from cancer treatment.

Unfortunately, you can most likely say the same.

One such woman in Brighton is Anne Mowrer, who last October received the news that after five years of remission, her breast cancer had returned as metastatic breast cancer and spread to her lungs and liver.

The first time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her daughter Ellie was 11 months old and her son Timmy was 3 years old.

Her story, and how she uses the website to keep friends and family updated on her condition, was featured in an August 2006 issue of the Democrat and Chronicle.

Now that her kids are older, Anne said the news is harder to take because they have a better understanding of what cancer is.

“Timmy was quite devastated by the news,” she said. “We have had three close friends pass away from cancer in the last year.

“It’s hard but necessary to be honest with my kids — cancer treatment for me is not going to go away. It’s something I will have to do for the rest of my life,” said Anne.

However, being older means that her son Timmy, a third-grader at French Road Middle School, is happy he can do something to help his mom. Instead of accepting presents for Christmas and his birthday this year, he asked for donations to be made to the Pluta Cancer Center, where his mom is being treated.

Timmy got the word out to his classmates and on Anne’s CaringBridge website. A few of Timmy’s friends took his cue and also asked for donations instead of birthday and Christmas presents. So far, Timmy has raised $13,000 for “Timmy’s Fund” at the Pluta Cancer Center.

Right now, Anne is in pretty good spirits. A recent CAT scan showed that the tumors in her lungs have disappeared and those in her liver are shrinking. This is the first “good news” she has had in some time, she said.

She said she gets her strength from her kids, her husband, Joe, family and friends in town, and people leaving well wishes on her website. She also is grateful that on good days, she can still exercise and work on the phone as a triage nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital’s University Health Services.

“I am so glad I can work. I love my job. As a patient, my nursing skills also come in handy because I know how to be my own advocate.”

Although Timmy didn’t ask for gifts for himself, his generosity and efforts to raise money for cancer research have not gone unnoticed. Just last month, Timmy, an avid Boston Red Sox fan, received an autographed baseball from Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrolia and a letter commending his fundraising work from Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino. The two items rest in a glass ball holder and frame and are proudly displayed in his room.

To help

If you would like to contribute to Timmy’s fundraiser for the Pluta Cancer Center, checks made to the center with “Timmy’s Fund” indicated on the check can be mailed to Pluta Cancer Center, 125 Red Creek Drive, Rochester NY 14623.

Contact Stacy Gittleman with news and notable people from east-side towns at

The Passover-Israel Connection

It would be funny if it were not so tellingly sad.

After weeks of rehearsing Passover songs for  a school wide Seder and in anticipation of April break, I knew my students would be feeling a bit burned out. But still, there was so much left to teach about Passover, especially the idea of redemption and how for modern Jews, Israel is our redemption. However, as our generations get further away from knowing a time before there was the existence of the modern Jewish State, one can take Israel, and teaching for Israel for granted. In afternoon supplementary Hebrew schools, where hours are shaved for time’s sake, teachers must focus  most of their time just teaching Hebrew reading. There is little time to teach Israel.

So, in the final Hebrew school hours before Pesach, I wanted to part with my students with thinking about the Israel-Pesach Connection with a slide show. (if you want a copy of this slide show, please send me an email at and I’ll happily send it along.)

I put a picture up from my laptop projector of the following people. Can you name them?

Now, to give them credit, I said I was going to show students slide show presentation from photos that were mostly ones I took in Israel, and told them that most of the photos were mine, but others were those I found on the Internet.

I just didn’t tell them which were which.

So, when I put this picture up and asked if anyone knew who these folks might be, I got some pretty interesting answers:

“Umm…. they must  be  husband and wife.”

“Are they your parents?”

No. No, I corrected them. These people are two of Israel’s most influential leaders in the  formation of a Jewish state. Can you name them now?

Still no answers.

“Children, the man is David Ben Gurion, the first prime Minister of Israel and the woman is Gol-“

“Oh, now I know! Is that Golda Meir, the first woman Israeli prime minister?”

“Yes, that’s right!” Now we were getting somewhere.

The next hand flew up.

“Did you… meet them?”

So, in the final weeks of Hebrew school after Pesach, I realize I have my work cut out for me. I’m pretty sure I knew who David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir were by the end of the sixth grade.  And I knew that, like Moses, these pioneers of the modern state of Israel went to European leaders in the 1930’s asking to let their people go to emigrate to the British Palestine Mandate to escape Hitler’s mad plan for the Jews.

When I get back to class, even though there are only weeks to go, I will put up photos up of Ben Gurion and Golda Meir. And Moshe Dayan. And Menachem Begin. And Rabin and Sharon.

Because, just as we tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt, and just as we vow to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, so must we tell our children the history of the formation of the modern State of Israel. We must somehow weave that right into our Seder narrative just as we sing Dayenu and Adir Hu.

One great resource that I found online this week is the  Israel 365 Hagaddah. It is 60 pages of the traditional hagaddah text combined with beautiful Israel photography plus specially marked “Israel moments” to highlight at your Seder. I hope that just some of this amazing Hagaddah makes it to your family’s Seder celebration.

Pesach Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag, and I don’t care if you don’t like it

Do you remember a repeated exchange between two dogs in the Dr. Seuss book, “Go Dog Go”?

Perhaps this picture will jar your memory:

The dog wearing the very frilly hat is not insulted by the other dog’s dislike of his hat. He keeps his hat on and is not disuaded by the rejection of his silly head covering.

They agree to disagree and have a pleasant parting  exchange.



The other day, on a rare shopping outing,  in addition to buying a pair (okay, two) of much-needed black flats, I came upon the store’s purse collection.

I know that for many women, the purse is the must-have power accessory. Women may spend hundreds of dollars on a handbag and change their look at least once a season.

Me? I cashed in a gift certificate I received on my birthday a few years ago for an over the shoulder cloth handbag. Except for the occasional wedding or evening occasion, I have not changed purses in nearly three years.

I looked at the new handbag displays at this shoe retailer and then the worn straps and the bottom of my bag, which was beginning to tear. Yes, it was time for a new bag.

I chose a handbag from Sakroots.

Here it is:

I was drawn to its orange and red flowered pattern. It reminded me of wallpaper from the 1950’s. It has all the whimsy and just enough kitch for a springtime handbag.

My new bag is a bag with purpose.  Sakroots gives a portion of each purchased product to The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees program. The program is working to reforest the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.

But when I got my bag home, was it greeted warmly by my family?


“Eew! That’s a horrible bag,” exclaimed my daughter. “Why did you buy  that  bag?” said my daughter.

“It looks like an old granny bag. It’s so old stylish,” said my husband. This is coming from a man who still wears sweater vests to work.

On first instinct, I scrambled for my car keys and dug up the receipt, looking to return my purchase as soon as possible.

But wait. No! I liked – no – like – no  – LOVE – my quirky new handbag. Like the canine in the Dr. Seuss book, I will take the critique of those around me, but then I will move on.

So, do you like my new orange-with-red-flowered bag? I hope you do. But if not, that’s okay too. Because I do.

“Good -bye.”


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