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New State, New Life: Transplantednorth needs a new name

Thank, you, WordPress, for your latest daily prompt: All About Me.

It was the impetus that got me thinking: Once I move to Detroit, the name of my blog will be outdated.

When I started this blog about three years ago, I named it Transplantednorth because that’s how I felt. Even after nine years of moving from the New York Metro Area to Rochester, I still felt somewhat on the outside, still very much a transplant.

Now, (as we native New Yorkers say)  whadaya know? Just as I’m feeling grounded and rooted, it’s time to move, to transplant, yet again! (Yay.)

So, this is where you come in. And you get to vote.

When I move, what shall I name my blog:

 

I’m waiting with bated breath for your vote OR other suggestions!

 

Have the Flu? Stay Home, the World Can Wait!

sickkid“Really, really, I can go to school. I HAVE to go to school!”

These were the words of my son petitioning me this morning from his bed. These words came from his mouth, which was attached to a head, a head as hot as coal. A head which could not be lifted from his pillow.

“Just give me some Advil, and I can go!”

His concern: An overdue tech project that needed to be completed in school. A CO2 car he has designed and engineered that still needed to still be sawed, glued, and painted.

This project counts as 60 percent of his grade. How do I know it is 60 percent of his grade? He has told this to me at least 10 times since coming down with the flu.

He is also worried, of course, about falling behind in math. And Science. And how will he ever catch up and HOW he will get ready for midterms.

He puts this pressure on himself to not to stay home and recover from the flu but to GET TO SCHOOL no matter how he feels. No matter the consequences to his own health or those around him.

My son is not yet in Harvard college or even in high school.

He’s only a 14-year-old kid.

He’s only in the 8th Grade.

If you can’t even stay home and rest up from the flu in the 8th grade with a clear conscience, then what does that say about our culture? Is there any wonder we are in the midst of an influenza epidemic?

Now, we all think we have THE most important jobs in the world.

Unless we are at death’s door, don’t even think about skipping work or school.

Even I have come under this delusion of mind over virus.

Last week, in I went to teach afternoon instruction because I felt I HAD to be at work to show my commitment. I was not hacking and coughing. I HAD a prescription for an antibiotic in hand (seems like, if you have flu symptoms and don’t rest them, the darned germs morph into something else, wouldn’t ya know?).

I was just a little stuffy.

Way stuffy.

And my eyes were sunken in because I had barely slept for two …. no three nights because my sinuses were killing me but

SO WHAT?

Life goes on and we muddle through.

At the copy machine my boss asked.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m just making copies for this afternoon. Then, I’m going to take my antibiotics. Then I’m going to teach. ”

Fortunately, I have a boss who does have the voice of reason.

“You will do no such thing. You look like hell. I appreciate you want to work but you shouldn’t be here. Now go home and get some rest.”

So rest I did and I am better now, a week later. Even so, my energy is not fully back.

So, when it was my son’s turn to fall ill, I did not let him succumb to our hyper-achievement culture.

He’s home. He has a fever that spikes back as soon as the latest ibuprofen dose wears off. But he is resting and doing his work and playing his guitar when he feels up to it.

Will he go back to school tomorrow? Don’t know. We’ll just have to see.

Fess up: have you ever went to work/school when you know you were too sick?  

A great blog post from Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson’s blog Teachers and Twits, to echo the point of my last post. Please, don’ t text/call and drive, and if you see someone doing it, do express your displeasure. Let’s start a movement before someone else is killed while reading/sending something as stupid as ROFL.

Muskoka & Camp Ramah — It’s worth the schlep

When people ask me where I send my kids to camp, I tell them I send them to Camp Ramah.

Now, when you live in a town where traveling even 30 minutes to get somewhere seems like traveling to another planet (and I’m guilty of this as well), they then reply, Oh, the Camp Ramah in Toronto.

And then I say, “Nooo, it’s actually two and a half hours further. North of Toronto. In a region called Muskoka.”

The response I hear is: Isn’t that far?

And truthfully, Yes.

Yes. It’s very far.

Yes, I send my kids for a month, and now for my oldest two months, six hours away.  Many see this as a sign of bad parenting. Many cannot fathom why we’d want to get rid of our kids for a month or even two. But, I have a friend who has five boys. Once, when we ran into each other grocery shopping, she spoke to me about the beauty of summer camp.

“Everyone for one time a year gets to live in their own space. It’s really very healthy.”

I’ll remember this produce aisle advice forever.

To get to camp, they travel across an international border and this requires they all need passports.  But that means they are truly away from home, broadening their horizons and meeting kids from many countries and cities who are all bound together by a common heritage and a way of observing this heritage.

This is what I keep reminding myself in the hours my husband and I find ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic on our way to visitors day.

The first time I drove up to Muskoka, what surprised me most of all was the traffic. I mean, I can accept traffic in the New York Metro area, but traffic in Canada?

Yes, this is my American arrogance shining right through, because I never imagined such a huge population can exist North of the United States.

In reality, the Toronto-Muskoka corridor is packed. If you want to put it in terms of an SAT verbal analogy question, then  Muskoka is to Toronto as the Jersey Shore is to the New York Tri State area.

So, picture yourself on the Garden State Parkway on a Friday or a Saturday and you now completely have an understanding of the traffic scene of “cottage country.”

Except, instead of terms like the GSP, you have roads that start with “the”.

The 400.

The 407.

And at last, The 11.

On the 11, suddenly the traffic opens up, and you find yourself on a road that ambles along sparkling lakes and pine forests.   A road that’s dotted with honky tonk motels and camper parks, kayak rental places, and fruit stands. And you know you’re almost there.

So, getting back to the “why.” Why do we schlep all the way to Muskoka to send our kids to camp?  Why do we send our kids so far away when there are closer camps from which to choose?

For many reasons.

Friendship and Kehilah Kedosha (holy community) It’s the smile on the kids faces that I see on nearly every photo that is posted on the camp website. The photos where nearly 600 children, freshly showered and dressed and arms linked, make their way down to the waterfront for another Shabbat service, that gets me every time. I know that we are doing right by our children for parting with them for a summer of this:

My children are developing deep friendships and in turn, we are also making friendships with the families of these children, all within the framework of an immersive Jewish education program that is nearly impossible to duplicate outside of camp (but I keep trying).

Inclusion: When we arrived at camp for visitor’s day, the very first child my 15-year-old daughter talked about and wanted us to meet was her new friend Julie:

Julie, who has Down’s Syndrome,  is participating in Camp Ramah’s Tikvah program.  Each day, Jolie meets with Julie to tutor her in Hebrew and through these lessons a friendship has blossomed. I am sure the girls will keep in touch long after camp is over.

Family – In truth, campers, and in turn their families, become one extended family. But I have actually reconnected with extended family members on my grandmother’s side that before our Camp Ramah years, I have not seen in decades. Now, the great-grandchildren of my grandmother and her eldest sister attend the same camp. We stay in touch during the year over Facebook and we’ve got plans to visit them in Pittsburgh at the end of the summer.

New Hobbies: Because of his summers canoeing and kayaking in Skeleton Lake, I got into a canoe with my son with confidence. I sat in the front of the wobbly canoe, knowing he would be the one to give me direction on how to stroke and where to steer the boat:

My daughter also took up a hobby, making her own boat in woodshop:

She also painted the sets for and was one of the angels in “Beauty School Dropout” in the Camp Ramah production of Grease.

And all plays at camp Ramah – the lines and the songs –  are performed in Hebrew.

I don’t know how to sing “Beauty School Dropout” in Hebrew just now, but I bet my daughter will teach me when she gets home.

Finally, off camp, there is the town of Huntsville with the world’s most amazing candy store and ice creamery, great restaurants, art galleries inside and out,

and nearby Arrowhead Provincial Park where you can swim in a pristine lake, hike to a waterfall and climb in and see fish swimming around you in the current:

And, at night there is darkness. A rarity in our increasingly lit up world, the skies are dark enough to see THOUSANDS of stars, and even spot a fast-moving satellite:

Really, there are stars in this photo. If you don’t believe me, you’ll just have to go up there for yourself. I’ll even tell you which field to stargaze.

So, we’re back. I try not to think about how far away my kids are, kind of how an extreme rock climber just keeps looking up and doesn’t think how high off the ground they are. But we are happy in our space, and they are happy in theirs.

And the schlep is completely worth it.

It’s Time to get all Israeli on our Water

.Tal-Ya Water Technologies (Tal means dew in Hebrew) developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops or trees by up to 50 percent. (photo from israel21c.org)

While gardeners and farmers feel the drought first, it won’t be long until we all feel it. No one, not even your neighbors who keep watering their lawns despite the news that more than 50 percent of the country is facing a drought not seen since the 1950’s is immune.

This summer has been brutal on our water supply. Newspapers and media reports are full of the plight of the farmer as they watch crops wither because most are at the mercy of rainfall for water.

But perhaps this drought is waking us up to appreciate the most precious resource we all take for granted. And it may be time to rethink and apply some extreme agricultural practices as the earth heats up.

In times like these, we can take a lesson from Israel.

Israel is one of the driest countries on the planet. On average, it receives only 19.4 inches of rain annually. Yet, thanks to cutting edge technology, and even more, the stubborn willingness of a people who know that in order to practically live in Israel, you have to believe in miracles, Israel blooms.

A lustrous display of pomegranates in an Israeli market.

This tiny country has learned to efficiently use every drop of water that falls from the sky in the summer or coats the mountains in the north in winter to grow some of the most beautiful produce in the world. Check out this photo of huge greenhouses growing vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers in the Negev Desert. Check out this photo courtesy of Daniel Lawrence’s blog:

Hundreds of greenhouses line the Negev Desert and grow crops year around. The greenhouses are completely computerized so as not to create any error in the cultivation the plants. Peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are the main crops grown here.

Israel not only makes the desert bloom, but it has developed technology and methods that the rest of the world can use to reverse and prevent desertification, as noted in this post from israel21c.org. Israel21c.org is an online magazine that offers topical and timely reports on how Israelis from all walks of life and religion, innovate, improve and add value to the world.

So here are a few tips we can learn from Israel to conserve our water resources not only during times of drought, but for the long haul:

  1. Stop Watering Your Lawn. Right Now. – You! Yes, you, the suburbanite! Fuggetabout your lawn. (okay, fuggetabout it is technically a Brooklyn/New Jersey and not an Israeli term, but let’s get back on topic) Israelis don’t have silly things like lawns. Lawns are nothing but vanity.  I’ll say it again: STOP WATERING YOUR LAWN NOW. Your brown lawn has gone into dormancy and watering your lawn artificially just puts more of a strain on its root system. It will come back soft and green when the rains return.
  2. Use drip irrigation – Did you know that agriculturalists in Israel invented drip irrigation technology? Instead of wastefully watering your garden through a sprinkler, where most water evaporates into the air, use drip irrigation to deliver the water right to where the plants need it – the roots.
  3. Save that H2O from your A/C – As shown in the photo above, Israel has developed technologies that draw humidity out of the air for irrigating crops. On a smaller scale, you can do the same by catching water runoff from your central air conditioner (my hose empties into the slop sink) to water plants and vegetables
  4. Less Wasting Water at Restaurants –  When you sit down at a restaurant in Israel, don’t assume that the waitress will automatically fill your glass with endless glasses of water. No way are they just giving water away if it’s not asked for.  You have to ask for the water, sometimes twice – in two different languages, until the waitress gives you a glass of water. So, next time you dine out, if you are not going to drink the water, tell your server not to pour, or refill your glass.
  5. Selective Flushing – Here is a picture of just one type of toilet flush in Israel:                                                                                                                                  The flush mechanism is divided into a big section and a small section.  If you are reading my blog, you are indeed a very intelligent person, so I’ll let you figure out what purpose each section serves.
  6. Shower Shorter, or Shower with a Friend – a drought is a great excuse to share your shower.
  7. Rejoice in the rain: Finally, instead of getting all bummed out when your ball game or picnic gets rained just be thankful. Think of the farmers who need the rain for their crops and livestock (a.k.a. your food, right down to that box of Cheerios and glass of milk at the breakfast table). Any event, even a wedding, can have a postponement, a change of venue or a rain date. But there is no substitute for the blessing of rain.

Talkin’ ‘Bout the Birds and The Bees at the Bus Stop

These are the last days of school. I’m trying to make the most of them with my youngest by having our morning one-on-one time while waiting for his bus. We did just that today, just  talking and waiting as the rain fell.

All I was trying to do was play a little math problem solving game with him, and lo and behold, it turned into the beginnings of THE talk.

I was not going to write about this funny conversation with my youngest child, my eight-year-old boy who is a bit worldly thanks to big brother and sister.

However, Blogher and Venus Embrace are putting bloggers up to the challenge of writing about tips of how to have a talk about sexuality with your kids for a $50 Visa Card giveaway, I would take them up on their opportunity.

So, there we were waiting  for the bus when my son asks how old his grandparents, my parents, were when they got married, and how old they were when I was born.

Perfect. Time for a little math while waiting for the bus.

Me: Grandpa was born in 1940 and he got married in 1965.

Son: So… he was 25.

Me: Right. Okay, Grandma was born in 1943-

Son: So Grandma was 22.

Me: That’s right. And I was born in 1968.

Son: Didn’t grandma and grandpa want to have kids right away?

Me: Ummm….maybe, but it takes some time to have  a baby.

Son: Why? I mean, why didn’t they, right after the wedding, drive up to a hospital and say “We want a baby, please?”

Me: It doesn’t work like that….

Now, I have to say, I had these conversations a little earlier with my oldest two, who watched my belly grow when I was pregnant with my middle and youngest children.

My youngest, however, never had the opportunity to be around a pregnant woman on a daily basis, so these questions had yet to come up.

The conversation continued:

Son: So just HOW does it work? Does a mommy one day look down at her belly and say, “C’mon, belly, give me all you’ve got!” and then the belly grows and then POP! A baby comes out?

Me: No, um. It takes longer than that. It takes nine months for a baby to be born. You see, a mom and a dad have to lay very close…..

Son: Oh, they have S-E-X??

Me: Yes. (Just what does he know? I wondered. But I didn’t prod.)

I continued.

Me: You see, a woman has an egg inside of her and a man has a seed, and if the seed goes into the egg, in nine months a baby is born.

Son: AN EGG? Like a Chicken?

Me: No, not like a chicken.

Son: Was I Born this way?

Me: Everyone was born this way. And every thing.

Son: Were trees born this way?

Me: No, but most mammals are born this same way. 

….. and so on.

After having three kids, my best advice about THE talk is:

  • Be calm. Be matter-of-fact. Don’t brush off any questions.
  • You don’t have to have THE talk all at once, but take it up gradually
  • Only give them just the right amount of information they need and don’t expand. I didn’t get into the complications of birth control, sex before marriage, having babies between same-sex couples, in-vitro-fertilization. WHY? An eight year old just needs the basic facts.
  • When they stop asking, it means they’ve had enough information for now.

One thing’s for sure: I will take out a few books for him on the topic at the library. One good source I found was a blog post by Story Pockets, a blog written by the Children’s Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Good luck!

Grow, Tomato, Grow!

Long ago, in another state, the Garden State, my neighbor Joe, a retired chain-smoking fireman, chided me as I put a tall tomato cage around the tiniest tomato seeding in my garden.

“Yeah right, like that’s gonna grow,” he said with smile as he pulled the waistline of his polyester pants over a plaid short-sleeved shirt.

Two months later, I teased him right back.

We were up to our ears in cherry tomatoes. Picked ’em by the basket. And beefsteak tomatoes too. I had so many cherry tomatoes I had to give them away, and my city-dwelling co-workers in Manhattan gladly took some of the perfectly ripened produce  off my hands. And of course, I gave some to Joe and his wife Pat because I was a good sport.

This year, I could have purchased some tomato plants that already had flowers or, heaven forbid, green fruit, and stuck them into the ground in my spot in the community garden for instant gratification.

But it’s far more satisfying for me to know that from seed to ripened fruit, I grew a tomato all by myself. When you grow from seed, you can control the variety and are not at the mercy of whatever is sold at the local greenhouse or big box hardware store. It’s also a lot cheaper.

So, once again, I plant a tiny tomato seedling in the ground:

RUTGERS tomato, started from seed in my basement. It’s got a long way to go before I get a tomato.

And, by putting that big metal cage around this tiny seedling, I am saying “I have faith that you will grow and by summer’s end, provide a bumper crop.” And that’s what you call a real homegrown tomato.

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.

“Good-bye”

“Good-bye!”

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?

No.

“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.”

“Good-bye!”

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.

The Netnanny Diaries, or How to Keep your Teens Safe Online

if you don't want to disable your computer, DO NOT buy this product

This time of year, Americans everywhere are shopping and carefully wrapping gifts picked out for those special someones in our lives.  Odds are, if that special someone is a teenager, that Christmas or Chanukkah gift, I’m talking the big-ticket item, will come with a screen.

Last year, my husband and I bit the bullet and begrudgingly gave our adolescent children a laptop. We rationalized that the laptop was a necessity for homework. Our children get assignments that have to be completed at online websites like Pearson’s Successnet.  We further rationalized that the children would want to send the occasional email to a friend.  Furthermore, we told our children the laptop was to be used in a common room like the kitchen.

But, laptops being what they are, and teens being who they are, my kids inevitably used their gift to chat with friends in the privacy of their rooms behind closed doors.

There are many pros and cons to this virtual social life. Through Facebook and Skype, my kids share their daily minutia with faraway friends without running up my phone bill. They will never know what it was like to have to wait until late at night for the phone rates to go down to place that long distance call.

Just one generation ago, having a phone line in one’s own room caused concerns for parents.  Remember hiding under the covers with the phone?

Now, the Internet is the place where parents of teens feel like they are losing control. Will they become vulnerable to online bullying if they are not savvy to the nuances of social networking? Will one wrong click result in viewing inappropriate web content?

In a last-gasp effort to maintain some control of my kids’ online activities, I hired Netnanny.  This is a content monitoring software program that allows parents to use customizable filters to monitor where kids can go online.

  •  parents can customize the program as they wish to limit or completely block sites containing violence, sexual or hateful language or images
  • Parents can limit or completely block websites to games or sites that support online gambling
  • parents can monitor posts or conversations on social networking sites like Faceboook
  • Parents can also use Netnanny to put limits on Internet time. You can set how many hours a child can use the Internet, and what times of day these hours are to take place. If you don’t want your kids on the Internet after 10 on a school night, Netnanny shuts off Internet capabilities after 10 p.m.

Sounds great, right? Perhaps there are parents who use this program with success. However, our situation wrote itself out like a bad reality TV show that could have been called “Netnannies Gone Wild.”

My daughter’s Netnanny woes:

  • One day, she wanted to go online to search for ski equipment on Dicks  Sporting Goods’ website.  Netnanny blocked her because the retailer also sold guns for hunting. Reason for blocking: possible violent content.
  • When she wanted to do some online window shopping for some bathing suits on Landsend.com, Netnanny again pulled her back by the apron strings. This time: risqué sexual content.  On Land’s End. Sure.
  • When she needed to research a paper for social studies about racism, she could not enter certain sites because they contained “hateful language.” or images of swastikas.
  • Finally, Netnanny blocked my daughter from Skyping with a friend in Israel. Perhaps the program detected a Middle Eastern ISP address and determined it was thwarting some kind of terror plot.

I did find Netnanny’s monitoring reports useful in terms of tracking what she and her Facebook friends were chatting about. However, Netnanny was a bit too overprotective when she deemed that “Hiya Hon, Luv ya” written by one of her BFFs was considered sexually explicit language.

My son had his own woes with Miss Netnanny

  • He could play no games on miniclips.com. Wait, that was my intention. Miniclips always spread viruses on my computer and I find these games to be a complete waste of time.
  • But, in an attempt to play an innocent game of solitaire, my son was blocked. Why? The game involved the use of cards: potential for online gambling. In my defense, I did block video games, but barring a game of solitaire was going a bit too far.
  • My son is an avid guitar player. Often, he looks guitar tabs up to play the latest song he hears on the radio. But Netnanny blocked guitar tab websites. The reason: Music and entertainment, may have explicit language.

After a few months, Netnanny disabled and corrupted all of the laptop’s Internet capabilities. I needed outside help and turned to Microworx, a Brighton information technology company that specializes in computer troubleshooting.

It took several days and about $200 to free my computer from Netnanny’s clutches. When I called the company to ask for a refund, Content Watch, the maker of Netnanny, refused because the software’s warranty had expired. In the end, there is no substitute for giving your teens a good lesson in common sense, social networking etiquette and harsh warnings about not trying to search for anything illicit before you let them go online.

Excuse me, Content Watch, if I was not a fortune teller and could not predict your crappy software would cause my computer such problems.

In the end, we fired Netnanny.  In the New Year, and the years to come, raising teens will come with many challenges. Now, it is navigating the information superhighway. Soon, it will be learning to drive on a real highway.

The best I can do is to offer my guidance and always let them know that if they need me, I will always be on the other side of that closed door.

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