Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's That Time

This, for me, is the hardest stage of the writing process.

I pitched the story, and it was accepted. The editor and I agreed on a word count and a due date. I started interviewing, and started researching, and submitted a broad outline. I interviewed some more, and researched some more, and then some more.

Now I have 40 pages of notes -- a Word document of 15,237 words, and a long PDF file with a statistical report -- to whittle down into an engaging, comprehensive, informative and tightly-written article of 3 pages (1,500 - 2,000 words).

I know what I will do. I will make up 4-5 section heads and put them in a new document, to be minimized to the bottom of my screen, and go through my notes (minimized at the top of my screen), cutting and pasting salient quotations and statistics and references under the correct subject headings. I will decide which of the interviews I've conducted makes for the most compelling "lede" (introduction) and put that interview up top.

I'll go through all those notes and re-order information in each section, paying attention to stories and quotations and ideas that transition well from one to another, or to the following section. I'll make decisions about whom to quote and where -- highlighting terrific quotations in pink or purple-- minding the fact that I need to quote each person I interviewed at least once, to show off how many interviews I did and thereby establish expertise. Boring quotations and extraneous or repetitive information will be highlighted in grey, to be essentially ignored from now on.

I'll close my 40 pages of notes and move my new outline to the top of the screen. At this point I feel more confident and the process gets easier. On yet another fresh new page, I'll start writing the story, weaving together concepts and facts and quotations in a way that must, because of the nature of my client's publication, be accessible to laypeople but interesting to readers who are already experts on this subject. When I'm done, I'll probably discover that I've gone over my word limit by about a third, and I will go back to cut, cut, cut. By then I'll feel happy and proud and I'll work eagerly, looking forward to hitting the "send" button.

But right now, I'm neither happy nor proud.

Forty pages of notes.
Eeyore the Editor

I have a book called Writer's Market, which lists thousands of magazines published in the United States; it's an essential desk reference for freelance writers. In it, I discovered a magazine which I'll call, for the purpose of maintaining its privacy (for reasons you'll soon see), Widget Collectors of America.

Now, it just so happens that I know someone who --for purposes of this blog post--collects widgets, and in fact I have written about this person ("Mr. Hobbyist") for a newspaper in the past. I've got lots of extra interview material that has never been published, and photos for which I have the publishing rights, so like anyone does who has taken Freelancing 101, I attempted to make more money out of the material I already have, and pitched a story to Widget Collectors of America. I made it clear that I've already written about Mr. Hobbyist but would create a new story with different interview material and updated information (so as to avoid copyright issues).

The following is the exact email I got back:

What you propose would indeed likely be a good fit for our magazine, but I probably have to pass because our freelance budget has been so severely constrained over the past two-plus years that I am certain that whatever I could pay would be inadequate/insulting. We were never lavish in our author payments, but now the tough times have pushed us to levels such that we only handle a fraction of the number of freelance pieces that we used to feature. And this is not me playing hardball in a shameless attempt to elicit an agreement to a niggardly figure; I truly am embarrassed by what we could pay and so merely decline without making my chagrin official.

My response:

That was the saddest-in-the-funniest-way response I've ever gotten!

OK, since you were honest with me, I'll be honest with you: I've already got so much material from when I did the [previously published] interview, that didn't make it into [that] story -- plus a few updates from when I visited [Mr. Hobbyist] recently to take photos [of his widget collection] -- that I could write up a new story in under 2 hours, tops, without even talking to [Mr. Hobbyist]. If I have to talk to him, or visit again, add MAYBE another hour or two, depending on if I walk there or take the bus.

When I charge by the hour, I charge $xx per hour. You do the math.

Game back on?


Mr. Editor replies:

Sarah ... I wasn’t going for sad and funny, but I think I often get there without really trying. It’s probably the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves these days. Everything we accept has to be based on a finished manuscript, but given your credentials I doubt there’s much chance I would be disappointed in what you provide. I’d be happy to look at something and would make every effort not to embarrass myself with a proposed payment, taking into account the parameters of your e-mail below. I am actually horrible at math, but not so much to be left out in the cold on this one. I would have to hit you up for two or three pictures of your choosing as well.

I appreciate your not actually calling me any unflattering names.

Sarah writes:

It's OK. I won't bite.

If I were writing on a new topic I'd be walking away, but I've got all this material already, so I may as well make a little more money off it, instead of no money.

So, with the understanding that you can't officially guarantee to buy my story, how many words do you think would work best for a submitted draft?

Pictures are no problem.


At this point he called me, even though I'd said in my email to please always call before x pm his time, because of the time difference. I told him it's OK, I obviously am not asleep because I'd just sent him an email. He said "Oh, my God, I would have felt so bad! I'm so sorry. Etc." I said "really, I'm not a scary person. Have other writers actually called you names?" He mumbled something that suggested to me that he's getting flak from readers because the publication is getting smaller and smaller.

Anyway, we agreed on a word count, and I'm planning to spend no more than 2 hours on it because he can't officially promise to publish it, and I have no idea if he plans to pay more than 2 x [my hourly rate]. I am confident I can get away with this because, frankly, I'm a good writer. And I may as well risk the 2 hours because, frankly, with the economy as it is, I don't have enough other work.

The crazy part was when he told me that Widget Collectors of America is a weekly publication. How is this man supposed to find enough material about Widget collecting to fill a magazine about it every week?

Sarah: Really? Given your focus, I'd have thought that a monthly would be --

Editor [resignedly]: Just peachy. That is correct. But I can't convince the higher-ups of that.


Sarah: I'm sorry for your plight.

Editor: It's OK, I've elicited enough sympathy from you.

Geez, Louise! If ever there was a candidate for non-prescription drugs, it is this guy! He and his situation are so sad!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Impressive Women Bloggers

I'm writing a story for my college Alumnae magazine, about fellow graduates (and current students) who blog.

Reading a variety of blogs by other Barnard women made me realize just how lame-o my blog has become. I'd suspected it; now I know.

If you want some good readin', I recommend the following (in addition to the blogs on my blogroll, at right):

Living in Invisible Cities (blog about raising a baby with Costello Syndrome)

Sarah's Cucina Bella (food blog)

Not Derby Pie (food blog) (I met this writer in person and she is delightful.)

What Would Krissie Wear
(young writer working in corporate world shares ideas of how to dress stylishly for work, on a low budget)

Sasha Soreff Dance Theater
(choreographer blogs about the creative process, and the rehearsal process)

Six Figure Start (blogs about the job search process, from the recruiter's perspective; she's a career coach and life coach)

Fatherland (subtitle: There's No Place Like Home, or, How and Why a Nice Jewish Girl Asked Germany To Take Her Back)

There's lots more, but that's a start. Have fun surfing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Could you resist this face?

The following conversation happens every night while I'm working at my computer (that's my denim skirt in the picture):

Artemis parks herself next to me and squeaks.

"Please play mouse-on-a-stick with me?"

Sarah: Hi, Artemis. I'm working.

Artemis meows pitifully.

"Seriously. Please? With a cherry on top?"

Well, what would YOU do?

Monday, December 21, 2009

My What Big Ears You Have

Today, Artemis is 8 months old. She's such a big girl! (Yes, I'm insane.)

Waking up is hard to do

Artemis doesn't know how to cover her mouth when she's yawning. Notice how white her teeth are? That's because I brush them regularly. (Yes, I'm insane. Though, to be fair, dental hygiene is an important part of responsible pet ownership.)

Her Royal Catness

This is Artemis saying "Please make that mousy on a stick move. Please? You know you want to. You know I will keep meowing until you make the mouse move. Meow. Meow. Meow.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Pre-Shabbat Post

Thanks to the many, many people who responded to my previous post, either in the comments or by email, to say either that a) they think I'm simply reacting strongly to the long, dark winter nights and would benefit from a sunlamp, which sounds like a good idea and/or b) they, too, have had friendships fizzle out for no discernible reason and it's not about me. The biggest ego-booster came from a former roommate who said "You are still the fun, clever, talented person you have always been."

I appreciate the concern and support.

In other news, I've lovingly developed a penchant for chocolate-covered sufganiyot with sprinkles on top, and Artemis has learned to drink from the faucet without getting her nose wet, and I've finished watching Season 5 of House. (Without giving away TOO many details, I CANNOT BELIEVE they killed off the character they killed off. I loved that character! I deeply related to that character! So what if the person who played that actor got a job in the White House? They could have, like, just transferred the character to another hospital or whatever. Sucks.) And, I recently realized that Felicia Day and Co. have finished production of Season 3 of The Guild and I haven't been keeping up! So now I have almost the whole season to watch, yay.

Also I'm still bone tired, and anxious about my work (which I currently have TOO MUCH of, all at once, but in about a week I'll have TOO LITTLE). I'm so tired that even though Shabbat starts in an hour and my house is a mess and I've barely cooked anything, and I have a friend coming tonight for dinner, I can't get myself to stand up and start doing stuff. I just want to get back into bed and hide for the next 2 months. Urgh.

Oh, also, I decided that I have to join JDate before Shabbat starts, while it's still Chanukah, because, you know, I need a Chanukah miracle! Is that corny or what?

Whatever. I gotta go cook and clean. Blah.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sad on Chanukah

Although I'm not really aware of being sad, and during the day I'm very productive, I think I might be getting depressed because lately I've been sleeping for about 11 hours a night with no logical explanation.

I can think of a few things worrying me: Money issues, dating issues ... having those issues on Chanukah... but there's nothing in particular going on, and in fact I've been doing really well lately in other areas (exercising more, getting more work done, getting more errands done), so I don't know what's up.

Anyway there is one thing I want to get off my chest, and I hope this blog post will help me get some "closure" on it.

In college I had an incredibly close friend I'll call Yaffa, because that was NOT her name. We met in the middle of Freshman year and talked or spent time together almost every day after that. In Junior and Senior years we shared an apartment with some other friends. We had one of those intensely loyal relationships that women have; we were like close sisters.

In Junior year it transpired that she wished to date a mutual friend I'll call Jonah (because that is NOT his name), someone I'd gone to high school with and was, also, a very close friend. I was instrumental in getting them together, and when they got married I flew out to the West Coast to be a bridesmaid at their wedding.

Meanwhile we all graduated and pretty soon Yaffa and Jonah moved to the West Coast and started having children, while I stayed in New York. I spoke with Yaffa sometimes, but it turned out that she's terrible at keeping in touch. It wasn't just me, it was all her New York friends. Her reasons were always a combination of being busy and not remembering to call until night-time, when it was too late out East to call. Still, we did talk on the phone intermittently, and I saw them once or twice a year when we were all in Boston for Jewish holidays. I'd walk over to Jonah's parents' house to see them for a few hours. Also, a couple of times, when I visited my sister in California, I flew or rented a car and drove several hours (each way) to see my old college friends.

Then I made Aliyah, and basically never heard from them again, except for formal birth announcements they mailed out. I do remember that shortly after I moved to Israel, Yaffa was here to visit family, and I was disappointed that she didn't make time to see me. After that, I tried calling them, leaving messages on their machine every few weeks... and then every few months ... and then about once a year...and never got a response. Emails to Jonah's various addresses either bounced back or got no answer, and I'd never had an email for Yaffa because I'd never needed one; she'd used her husband's.

I had the feeling it wasn't anything to take personally -- if the time difference had been an issue before, it was worse now; and if they'd been busy before, they were much busier now with more kids and more job and graduate school obligations -- but it hurt and it was disappointing that people I'd been so close with had just disappeared completely from my life. I was especially hurt about Yaffa because, as close as Jonah and I had been in high school and college, the friendship between women is just different and more intense. Certainly I understand being in touch less, since I'm in touch less with MOST of my friends who are still in America. But to never hear from them at all? It's so sad, and I do wonder whether maybe I'd said something wrong.

About a year ago I was at some sort of social function -- a wedding? I don't remember -- and ran into Esther (NOT her name), who I know because she, too, had been a bridesmaid at Yaffa and Jonah's wedding. We caught up a little, and it turned out that Yaffa has effectively dropped out of Esther's life as well, something she feels sore and confused about, also.

Through Facebook, I sent an email to Jonah's sister a few weeks ago, who put me in touch with Jonah, who connected me to Yaffa. We exchanged a few polite emails and she caught me up on her life, but the exchange fizzled. The thread is lost and she's not picking it up again... and if she won't, or can't, then I won't either.

I worry about them sometimes. During the years after graduation, I know they were having a hard time financially for a while, and sometimes wondered, when I saw them together, how their marriage was going. (For the record I do *not* suspect that Jonah is isolating Yaffa in any way; if anything, she's the one with more power in their relationship). But based on their Facebook pictures and what they emailed me, it seems they are doing better now and have a good, stable life. Their kids are beautiful and they are active in their community. I would have liked to be in touch with them, as I'm in touch with several of my friends in the States, to one extent or another (rarely to the extent I'd like, but that's life as far-flung, busy grownups).

So now I'm just sad. Although I've known deep down for a long time that my friendship with Yaffa is over, I'm just now really confronting that idea and mourning. I realize now that for years after we graduated it was mostly me keeping things up. It was I who walked over to see them, I who travelled to see them, though to be fair every once in a long while she would call me out of the blue. Once I moved out of the country, it was totally over.

Intellectually I realize that maybe she just wanted to start a new life out west, or really is terrible at maintaining contact. But as someone who is intensely loyal to old friends, I have a hard time relating to that.

And that's just how it is. End of post. Closure . . . maybe.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Interesting for What It's Worth

I was just looking at this chart, which shows the perceived level of corruption in different countries. The methodology for culling this data is described in a broad way, but I'm still not sure if it includes only the perceptions of those who live in the respective countries.

#1 for least perceived corruption is New Zealand. The United States comes in at #19, just ahead of Barabados and Belgium.

In any case, for what it's worth, I think it's interesting that the following countries are among the 148 on the list perceived as being MORE corrupt than Israel (which comes in at #32, tied with Spain):

pretty much every other country in the Middle East
most of Asia
most of Africa
good chunks of South America

So for those of us disappointed and frustrated by the corruption in our government -- and there is definitely much room for improvement -- just be glad we don't live in India. Or Ghana. Or Botswana. Or Venezuela. Or Russia. Or China. Or Portugal. Or Hungary. Or Jordan. Etc, etc, etc.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Sarah and Liza Recuperative Center (a Cat Blog)

My friend A. had a cat for 18 years. After it died, she decided she wanted to be free to, say, leave for vacation without worrying about a pet, and she got new roommates who do NOT want any cats.

But a beautiful, neutered male cat showed up in her neighborhood, apparently a pet who had been abandoned. She started leaving food for him outside twice a day. When he got into a bad fight recently and his eye was injured, she took him to the vet, where the cat stayed for a week.

Finally the vet said it's time for cat (by now known as Blinky) to leave his office. But Blinky needed to be indoors for a week so that his eye could heal fully without interference from dirt, rain, or other cats.

Enter the Sarah and Liza Kitty Rehab.

Blinky came on Friday, and so far he's so quiet, sleepy, and still that you could almost forget he's around. He pretty much sleeps all day, sometimes on the couch and sometimes on a shelf in Liza's closet. He greatly enjoys being petted. That's pretty much it. An extremely low-maintenance cat!

Artemis, of course, was beside herself when Blinky first showed up. The first day or two, Blinky was petrified of Artemis who, though half his size, clearly belongs here and is a fiesty little thing used to getting her own way. Artemis is a terrible hostess.

But now, Blinky has come into his own and realizes that he is, after all, twice her size. So when Artemis comes too close to him, he hisses, she goes away, and Blinky goes back to sleep. The other day I saw her carefully tiptoeing in slow motion around him. My feeling is that it's about time someone put Artemis in her place. She needs to learn some humility and manners.

Meanwhile, Blinky is up for adoption. It's quite obvious that he's meant to be a housecat; he has zero interest in going outside. He's all white and very, very soft, and very, very chill. We don't know how old he is - the vet says at least 3 years old. A. got him his vaccinations, just in case, in addition to the eye treatment. If he doesn't find a home by this weekend, we'll be bringing him back to A's neighborhood and releasing him on the street (where A. will continue to give him food outside).

If you might want to adopt Blinky, contact me at chayyeisarah@yahoo.com.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Value of a Life

Here's a novel approach to the ongoing Palestinian demands that Israel release hundreds of prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit:

Israelis should be rallying in SUPPORT of this deal, with signs that blare "Yes! One Israeli is worth hundreds of Palestinians!" and "Fair is Fair! One Palestinian for each cell in an Israeli body!" and "They Know It, Now We All Know It!"

That'll confuse 'em.

What happened to the idea of Arab honor? If I were Palestinian, I'd be appalled by the implications this deal makes about the value of a Palestinian life.

Glad I'm not. (Not just because of this.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Post for the Top

I just couldn't stand to see that stupid poem at the top of my blog anymore!

Latest news:

1- The "world economic downturn" is hitting me hard, thusly:

a) two of my clients have closed completely in the last two years

b) another of my regular clients cut their freelancer budget, so I get fewer assignments

c) yet another of my regular clients lost a major advertiser and now pays about 75% of what it used to

d) the dollar has plummeted in relation to the shekel

e) many, many publications have closed or laid off their writers, which means there are now many, many more writers in the freelancing pool, competing for fewer slots

See, one of the great things about freelancing is that I'm never, technically, unemployed. I always have some project on my desk. But on the other hand, these days I'm not fully employed, either, and it's a problem.

I have been pitching, pitching, pitching, and last week I sent out about 20 resumes for various part-time and freelancing jobs. I hope something bears fruit soon.

2- I've been taking a Travel Writing class with Mediabistro.com. I signed up (and paid) for this before I realized how much I really can't afford it. It's interesting and useful, and will lead to more pitches in the future, but I'm not quite getting out of it what I hoped to get. There's still one week left, so I hope the instructor will answer the questions I've been bugging him to answer.

3- The health care issue in America is really moving, eh? I've been paying attention with about 75% of an ear. I love, love, love the highly socialized medical system in Israel, and have been happy to tell Americans why when they ask me (which many have), but other than that I don't consider it much of my business, except insofar as I care about Americans and America and want what is best for the country. Oh, and I care about my tax dollars, which, yes, I still pay to America every year like a good citizen (who is taking a chance on Social Security still being there in 30 years).

I do have opinions though, and now I will share one: the most important difference between the House version and the Senate version is that the House's version makes insurance companies accountable under anti-trust laws.

The price fixing and other financial shenanigans that currently go on are absolutely one of the worst aspects of American healthcare. It is horrible for hospitals, and horrible for patients. This aspect of the House bill is very important and I hope that it goes through into law.

Another nice thing would be if the bill mandated that insurance companies would have to pay the full amounts owed under their contracts, and that they must do so within a certain amount of time after a claim. Perhaps this is already included, but I'm not familiar enough with anti-trust laws to know that. I'm guessing not. I hope that over the next few years this is something that will be tweaked.

4- I've become addicted to House, MD. I've watched every episode, in order, in seasons 1-4. I'll rent season 5 as soon as it's available; apparently everyone in the German Colony wants to rent it. If anyone can recommend a way to download these thing a) legally and b) in Israel, please let me know. Please, no recommendations from America saying "try X or Y." I want recommendations from people who have done the downloading from an Israeli ISP.

5- I'm angry at Delta. You remember that when I returned from New York to Israel in September, I had a 12 hour delay? At the airport they gave out $100 vouchers. Later I complained by mail and they gave me a second $100 voucher. OK, $200, that's not so bad. But the fine print says I can use the vouchers only if I buy my tickets on Delta.com, where the prices are higher than at, say, Expedia. I've been researching tickets to see my parents for Passover, and here's what I found: For the same price, I can buy a Delta ticket or a flight on Swiss Air. Which would YOU pick? Duh! So, basically, the vouchers are useless and I'm not really getting any sort of compensation from Delta at all.

6- Been reading Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown, by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours. Fantastic book. I bought it after an interesting conversation with my roommate, which went something like this:

Sarah: . . . and when I was little my parents took us a couple of times to Provincetown on the Harbor Cruise.

Liza: Your parents took you to Provincetown?

Sarah: Yeah.

Liza: Your parents?

Sarah: Yeah, what's so strange about it?

Liza: It's just that Provincetown in a gay nightclub scene. A party town.

Sarah: No, it's not. It's a family magnet with kitchy tourist shops and ice cream.

Liza: No . . . it's a gay party scene. I've been there with friends.

Sarah: I'm telling you, we walked around in the summer air and bought chachkas and ate ice cream, and there were plenty of other families with kids so it definitely wasn't just us.

Liza: Wait a second. You were there during the day?

And this is how we discovered that I, having been to Provincetown only during daylight hours, had seen a completely different town from Liza, who had been there only at night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orthodox In-Joke

I was just poking around my old files, and came across a little poem I wrote years ago. Remember when Stella D'Oro tried to make their Swiss Fudge Cookies dairy? And sales plummeted, because who really buys Swiss Fudge Cookies except Orthodox Jews, who eat them on Friday nights and Shabbat afternoons? But who can only eat them if they are pareve (dairy-free), because (traditionally, anyway - I'm not talking about the vegetarians here) most people have meat at their Shabbat dinner? And who, in fact, ate them so much that the cookies became known for their resemblance to certain Hassidic hats?

Anyhow, the pareve status has since been reinstated, so this poem reflects a fleeting moment in history. Enjoy it.

Ode to Swiss Fudge Cookies

Upon their redesignation as “OU-DE”

Chocolatey, round, and lactose-free,

Stacked up high or spread on plate,

Oft on Shabbos you’d call to me.

Your chewy center was the bait.

Crumbly edges eaten first,

So the middle slow to savor;

Yet, alas, your fate is cursed

Despite your rich and sensuous flavor.

Stella D’Oro, ‘til now our friend

Comes between us, our affair to end.

From fleishik tables you must play hooky.

Farewell, my pareve shtreimel cookie.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Becoming That Which I Said I Would Never Be

For years I wanted a pet. A dog. There were many reasons I wanted a dog and not a cat, chief among which was that I did not want to be a "single woman with a cat."

Then my roommate finally relented and said we could get a pet, but it had to be a cat. No dogs. I figured a cat is better than nothing. I could settle for a cat.


When we left Artemis alone for Yom Kippur, I hung toys and bells all over the salon so she wouldn't get bored.


When I turn off the light and get into bed for the night, Artemis jumps in and curls up in the crook of my arm. In the morning she lays down on my abdomen while I pet her and she purrs. Neither of us likes to wake up. It's nice to wake up with another live thing who is happy to be there, together.


Artemis has a new friend. Every day she goes up the block and hangs out with a street cat who lives in the garden next door. They touch noses and take naps next to each other.


Artemis was spayed last week, and though at first she was healing beautifully, she now has an infection. I have to give her antibiotic pills twice a day. She responds like the fourth cat in this video (starting at 2:05), except more violent.


Conversation recently held in my apartment:

Sarah: Artemis is looking at us like "I can't believe I tolerate these people."

Liza: It's so funny, the range of thoughts you ascribe to the cat.

Sarah: Well, look at her.

Liza: She'll be walking around with a look that says "Hi, I'm a cat." And you'll make up some complicated set of emotions for her.

Sarah: Well.

Liza: As far as I'm concerned, she has four emotions: happy, pissed, hungry, and tired.

Sarah: Don't forget bored. Also, there are two kinds of happy. There is "Yay, I'm playing with a toy" happy, and "Mmmm, I'm purring because someone is petting me happy."

Liza: Whatever.


A few nights ago, I wanted to go to sleep and realized that Artemis was still outside. I need her to be inside so that she won't wake me up later to let her in. It was about 1 am and soon I was walking up the block in my silk bathrobe and slippers, whispering "here, kitty kitty" to the night air, and I realized that not only am I a single woman with a cat, I am A CRAZY CAT LADY.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Secret of Hummus

A guest post by Sarah's sister, Rivka.

So my husband, Luiz, went to Israel on a business trip with a group of co-workers. One day, before lunchtime, one of the co-workers -- an Israeli man who works full-time in the company's Israeli office -- asks my husband if he and the rest of the group want to try a new place for lunch. "It's pretty far away," the co-worker says, "but it's worth it." My husband thinks, "sure, why not," and he and the rest of the group hop in the car.

On the way, this Israeli co-worker tells my husband the story about the place they're going to: It's run by a guy named Gingi. Years ago, Gingi was unhappy with his life. He decided that what he really wanted to do was make Hummus. So he traveled Israel for many years, working in different restaurants, trying to discover the secret of good Hummus. After he decided that he had found the secret to Hummus, he opened up a restaurant that sold nothing but Hummus, and things that went with Hummus (like pita, pickles, things like that).

The restaurant was very successful. But after a few years, Gingi became unhappy again. He was still not living the life he wanted. So he decided that if he can make good Hummus, people will come to him for the Hummus. The Hummus does not have to go to the people. So he found a kibbutz in the middle of nowhere that agreed that he could live on the kibbutz and open his "restaurant." They gave him a small building (more like a shed) to make his food, and everyday people came and ordered Hummus plates.

The thing is, the co-worker explained, Gingi only makes his Hummus until 1:30 pm precisely. At 1:30 on the dot, Gingi is out the door, and he leaves it for his helpers to serve any remaining Hummus and clean up.

At this point, my husband and his co-workers had arrived at Gingi's "restaurant." It was now a few minutes after one o'clock. They ordered their Hummus plates, and sat down to eat.

(Was it really good? I asked my husband at this point. It was Hummus, he replied. With pita. And beans.)

At 1:30, Gingi comes out of the kitchen.

"Gingi!" my husband's Israeli co-worker yells. "Come say hello! I want you to meet my friends from America!"

Gingi looks at his watch, walks past them, and heads to his little motor-bike parked outside.


Gingi looks at his watch again, looks at the co-worker, and without saying a word, rides away.

The thing is, we have told this story to many people. The Americans always think the story is hysterical. The Israelis, on the other hand, find Gingi to be a very wise man, and don't understand why the story is so funny.
The Red Bull Soapbox Derby

So, it seems that Red Bull sponsors soapbox derbies in capital cities around the world. Yesterday, for the first time, the event came to Jerusalem, and I was there with my friend Batya. In a city so often wracked with tension, it was a relief to attend an event whose raison d'etre was to inject some silliness (and promote Red Bull energy drinks).

It was cloudy but very hot in Sacher Park, where the smell of hot dogs wafted through the air and thousands of Israeli adults and children watched 50 teams push whimsically-decorated soapboxes on wheels off a ramp, while one or two riders waved to the crowds as they slid down the street at about 5-10 miles per hour.

Before taking off, each team gave a 30-second presentation explaining their "concept." Teams were judged on the basis of creativity, showmanship, and speed down the track.

I didn't stay long, because of the heat and lack of visibility to the track (though they were showing everything on jumbotron screens around the park). The first soapbox, a giant carrot, took over 4 minutes to make it to the finish line. You could see the driver's feet under the vehicle, pedaling it along Flinstones-style. After that, contestants went more quickly, though some of them repeatedly crashed into the hay bales on the sides. The entries I saw included a pirate ship coasting along while the Love Boat theme played and the driver threw money at the crowds; a collection of three falafels in pitas; and Noah's Ark with the animals (built by a team of co-workers at the Jerusalem Zoological Center). My favorite was Jonah in the Whale: Just before takeoff, the team ripped apart the whale exterior so that Jonah, in long beard, white robe, and turban, coasted down the track in a little rowboat.

Batya said this event reminds her of the community-wide sing-a-longs popular with Jerusalemites. "Israelis appreciate good clean fun," she said.

What I appreciated most was that the whimsy was imbued with a distinctly Jewish-Israeli flavor: the Jonah entry, Noah's Ark, falafel, the fact that the hot dogs I smelled were kosher.

All in all a great way to spend a Sukkot afternoon! Video of the event is here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Catching Up

So, I spent 3 weeks at the end of August and beginning of September in the States. It was a fantastic trip: 2 nights staying with my cousin Aaron and his wife, Alli, on the Upper East Side, celebrating my birthday together; a week at my sister's house in northern California, hangin' with her and my nephews (to whom I introduced the game Twister, which they loved. Unfortunately their dog, Mishmish, decided to French kiss me while I was playing and was bent over, and that was the end of me playing Twister. Ew!); several days with my parents in Cleveland -- my father took a day off from work and we went to Amish country together; and then back to New York for several days, where I stayed with my friend Lisa and did a LOT of shopping. For the first time, I was sad to be coming back to Israel, but I reminded myself that of COURSE I was having fun, fun, fun in New York: I was SHOPPING ALL THE TIME, for crying out loud. That is not real life in New York, it is vacation. Indeed when my plane landed in Tel Aviv I was glad to be home.

That may have had to do with the fact that my flight landed TWELVE HOURS LATE. Yup. Delta flight 86 from JFK to Tel Aviv was supposed to leave at 7:55 pm on a Wednesday night, but due to mechanical problems did not actually take off until after 10:30 the next day. Along with dozens of other passengers I was put up in a hotel and given food vouchers which were only semi-useful for people who keep kosher. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep, and then of course lost more sleep because of the flight. The whole thing was awful. You know what Delta gave each of us by way of apology? A $100 travel voucher. Gee, thanks Delta. I've faxed in a complaint asking for another $300 of vouchers but doubt that I'll ever see it -- or fly Delta again.

Artemis had spent the 3 weeks in Maale Adumim, at the home of Shpeetz. Remember Shpeetz, the cat I babysat last year? Anyway, Artemis had been terrorizing poor Shpeetz for three weeks. Shpeetz only came inside to eat and there was a real fear she might run away. I didn't raise Artemis to be so rude!

Now that I'm back, I've started studying at Pardes again. I bit the bullet and registered for a Talmud class which meets 4 mornings a week, even though I really don't have time for this. The class is at a high level and the teacher is marvelous, so I love going, but have no idea how I'm going to juggle this with my work. I guess I just will, because I have to. When I'm not learning Talmud I really miss it.

I spent Rosh Hashanah as I always do, at the home of my dear friends Ari and Sarah Beth. Ari led the services in synaoguge and did a beautiful job. It was as spiritually uplifting a holiday as possible, given how not-spiritually-uplifted I've been feeling lately.

I went back to the same community for Yom Kippur. It's not their fault, but it was the lowest Yom Kippur I've ever had. I did not feel connected to the day at all. I made it for Shacharit, decided to skip part of Mussaf, fell asleep for hours, and went back for Mincha. By the time Mincha was over I was sick of praying, sick of pretending that I was sorry for my sins, sick of being afraid that my fate for the whole next year is being sealed at this very moment and I'd better shape up, sick of standing, sick of being hungry, etc, and I went home and sort of vegged in my friends' backyard, enjoying the view and the quiet and just sticking things out until nightfall. :-(

I spent the first day of Sukkot at home. Friday night I had a bizarre experience. I went out to a meal where I hardly knew anyone -- and was delighted to discover several other singles my age who were really nice and normal -- except for one woman who said really crazy and abusive things to me every time we were alone (such as in the kitchen, when I went in to help). I tried to make friendly conversation, but out of nowhere, she called me "buttinsky" and said "don't ever speak to me again, and don't think I don't know what you are trying to do." She clearly was, as I like to say, "off her meds." I tried not to take it personally, but I was shaken. As the meal went on, she started making public complaints about me at the table, about how awful I am. She seemed to have some paranoia around the fact that I'm a journalist, fearing that I was trying to find things out about her and invade her privacy. It got really creepy, and at one point when she left the table --leaning down to whisper "having a good time, Sarah?" in my ear -- I just burst into tears. It was so embarrassing. Meanwhile the host had left to "lay some church on her," and the other guests tried to comfort me, saying she always gets like this when she drinks too much (turns out she'd been doing whiskey shots in the kitchen all night), and that each of them had at one point or another been a victim of her verbal abuse. I'm guessing the host feels sorry for her or feels some sort of responsibility to make sure she's not alone on holidays or something, and that's why he keeps inviting her. But seriously, this woman needs an intervention. It was horrible!

Workwise, I'm doing OK. I've got a new-old client (I worked for them a few years ago, covering for a writer on maternity leave, and now they've got a new project and hired me to do it) for whom I'm writing a children's magazine which will be distributed in Jewish day schools in the States. I'm also writing an article for the Jewish Week and am taking a Travel Writing course online, with mediabistro. So I'm keeping busy, but would really love some lucrative long-term projects right now. (Wouldn't we all?)

Please pray for the health of Nechah Davina bat Chava, an acquaintance of mine in the States who is single and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She went into the hospital on Friday for a double mastectomy. This news has hit me hard.

In other news, my friend Leah asked me to babysit her kitten, Shachar, so for a few days we've got two cats in the house. Wouldn't you know that little Shachar, who is half the size of Artmis, is terrible to her? She hisses and growls. Otherwise she's a sweety. When Artemis is out, Shachar is cuteness itself. Shachar is actually up for adoption (her owner's son is allergic to cats), so if you know anyone who would like a 3-month-old kitten who was rescued from the street at the age of 1 month, and is extremely cute (when not with other cats), let me know. FYI Shachar has been living with 2 dogs and is fine with them.

Also, I got a call from the woman who owns Artemis' mother, telling me that Artemis' brother is also up for adoption, because the neighbors are complaining about how many cats they have. Artemis' brother is 5 1/2 months old and is friendly, sleek, and pretty. I almost adopted him myself before I chose Artemis. I can provide contact information for that, too.

You know that couch I bought, before I left for the States? Boy has it been in use. My roommate has had so many friends sleeping over lately, it's been like Grand Central Station around her. I'm happy to be hospitable, but eventually told her that I'm starting to miss my privacy, so we agreed not to have company for a while.

Among other guests was Liz. Remember Liz, our not-Jewish friend who speaks fluent Hebrew and Arabic and has friends on both sides of the "divide"? Well, she had to leave the country on short notice. She'd been working in the Palestinian territories at an institute for higher education, but because Israel controls visas into and out of the West Bank, and doesn't seem to care whether Palestinians have professional people working at their institutes for higher education (which seems silly to me, since wouldn't it be better for Israel if more Palestinians were studying to do useful things?) she couldn't get a work visa. She had a tourist visa, and was leaving the country every three months and then coming back in to get it renewed (many non-Jews who want to live or work in Israel or the PA do this. It's illegal but very common. They just go to Jordan or Cypress or Egypt every three months and then come back.) Well, the last time she re-entered from Jordan, border patrol caught her and told her that she can't renew her visa again, and she has 3 weeks to leave the country. So last night Liza escorted Liz to the airport, and she's gone back to New York to live with her parents until she figures out her next step. (If anyone out there can offer Liz a job that would make use of her language skills and Master's in Middle Eastern Studies, please contact me.)

I think that pretty much catches us up. Have a happy Sukkot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hello and I'm in a Book!

I know, I know, it's been too long.

I will later blog about my trip and all that has happened in the last month.

But first, LOOK! I'm in Fodor's: Israel 7th Edition! It was released just last month!

(Click on the picture or here to buy the book from Amazon. )

I've heard that the previous edition mucked up on a few levels, but this one looks strong to me. I can't vouch for everything in it, obviously, but I know the editors worked hard to make it fair vis-a-vis "the conflict" and to organize it well. I had input only on certain sections but tried to make my influence count!

For those of you curious to know which parts were written by moi, my sections are thusly:

Page 10: the section on "Israel and Her Neighbors"

Pages 24 and 25: I wrote a few paragraphs and sentences interspersed throughout. They seem to have taken a piece that I wrote and merged it with a piece by someone else.

Page 26: the section on "Judaism in Israel" (part of a much longer piece I wrote about Israeli demographics; they cut most of it due to space issues, it appears, or re-attached pieces of it to pages 24-25.)

Pages 180-184: the entire feature on Masada (whoohoo)

Pages 195 - 198: this entire section about the Dead Sea (whoohoo)

Buy the book so that they will see there is an interest and will make a new edition soon and hire me again. Also feel free to write to Fodor's telling them how much you loved any or all of the above pieces by me.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Many Faces of Artemis
(Warning: This post is probably interesting only to those who like cats)

Artemis: Kitty's official name, and how we usually refer to her. She is now 3 1/2 months old. She's gotten all her vaccines and is now allowed to roam outside our front door, though as yet we don't think she's actually gone outside. She has her first collar, but it's set at the tiniest circumference. Soon she will graduate from "baby cat" food to "kitten" food. She is quite fond of sleeping on my bed. Also having her tummy rubbed. Also suddenly running from one room to another as if something extremely urgent is happening; we have no idea what. Also hiding in cabinets.

(Here's she's trying to catch the little piece of paper sticking out of the top of my copy of Spice and Spirit.)

Bitemis: What she is called when she decides that chewing on a human hand, wrist, toe or ankle is a good idea. We push her away but apparently this is normal kitten behavior. Vet says she'll grow out of it. Lord I hope so. It hurts!

Squeeky: What we call her when she squeeks. She's obviously trying to tell us something but it just comes out as a high-pitched "eh, eh, eh." However she has another sound, a sort of rolling in the back of her throat (not purring, more of a gutteral squawk) which means she's verrrry happy. She makes this sound sometimes when we pick her up and pet her.

Someone: As in "someone dragged a roll of paper towels onto the porch and tore it apart" and "someone pushed my earrings off my desk onto the floor" and "someone found my winter hat and has deposited it under the couch."

Kitty: As in "here, Kitty Kitty," which we say when we want her to come to us. We've trained her to do it and so far it works 100% of the time, which is great when we can't find her.

Little Girl, Baby: Term of endearment used by both Liza and me.

Cutie, shnookie, sweetie-pie, cookie: Terms of endearment used by me, never by Liza.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Place to Park

My first two apartments after college had sofas. The first belonged to my then-roommate, and the second belonged to the landlord. I sat on those sofas all the time, never appreciating the glory of having a comfortable place to rest that was not my bed.

In my third apartment, in Manhattan, there was no room for a couch.

In the fourth, there was theoretically space, but it never came together. I had two roommates and pretty soon they were both engaged, and the sofa never happened.

In the fifth, there was no room.

In the sixth, the person who owned the apartment had a couch, but it was covered in 50's-style plastic sheeting and not comfortable AT ALL.

Then I made aliyah, to a studio, where there was no room for a couch.

And now here I am, in my eighth apartment after college, with a roommate who's been insisting she does not want one, for various reasons: we couldn't agree on a color palette (she likes earth tones, I like bright colors), I like plush sofas and she's a minimalist, she doesn't want me falling asleep in the living room all the time (which would certainly happen, natch), she thinks the salon is too small for a couch and our table-for-6-to-8 (I disagree). Even if I paid for the whole thing, she still didn't want it.

This was upsetting because, to me, the couch had become a symbol of adulthood. As long as I did not have a sofa in the living area, I was still living in a pseudo-dorm.

It is for that very reason that many Orthodox single people put off buying a couch, or other nice things. They do not want to admit that they are settling down somewhere without a spouse.

I'm 36 and that ship has sailed. If I wait for a husband before I buy a couch, I might be sitting on hard chairs for the rest of my life. I deserve better.

Still, time passed and I didn't buy a couch, because couches cost a lot of money (especially plush ones, which are not really available in Israel) and I had other things on my mind, and there was my roommate to consider.

The other day I was browsing around Janglo, an online bulletin board for English-speakers in Jerusalem, and came across an ad for a used sofa-bed at a great price, in a color my roommate likes and that I don't mind. I knew this was as good a deal as I'd ever find. I showed her the picture, and, inexplicably, she told me to go for it.

I still do not understand what happened there. Had I worn down her resistance? Catch her in a generous moment? Does she love maroon that much?

No matter. I went over to see it, determined it's in good-enough condition, hired a mover (which cost almost as much as the sofa), and now here we are (sorry about the glare. Sunlight!):

A place for me to sit! A place for guests to sit! And sleep!

Adulthood, at last.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

6 years

Today is the 6th anniversary of my aliyah, my immigration to Israel. I'm really happy that I came. And so today, to celebrate, I'm taking a page from the book of Treppenwitz and presenting ways I've become more Israeli:

- When someone cuts me in line, I speak up and say something

- I cut other people in the "line" at bus stations, even if I know they were there before I was. All's fair in love and bus seats.

- I can tell the difference between an Israeli who is being accusatory or confrontational and an Israeli who is being merely conversational. This took 6 years to master.

- I understand why Israelis all go on vacations abroad during the last 2-3 weeks of August.

- I understand (but do not yet feel) the allure of having red and green peppers at breakfast.

- Deli + Hummus = Yum!

- I have uttered the words "Yashar, Yashar, Yamina"

- The intermission at movies doesn't bother me any more.

- Wherever I am, I shut up when the news comes on the radio, on the hour.

- I'm even more upset that Haredim (often/generally) don't serve in the army or join professions.

- I can instantly tell whether a young man is a Jew or an Arab by his hairstyle and the way he wears his jeans (in Jerusalem and its environs, anyway - don't know about the rest of the country).

- Hafuch gadol dal, daily.

To my readers who are fasting today: have an easy fast.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Stuff Going On

So, first of all, I want you all to know that I actually have political opinions, but I'm too lazy to write about them. I'd rather you know that I'm lazy than suspect that all I ever think about is the new cat.

Second, said cat is delightful, most of the time. Most of the time, she is either playing with her toys or chasing her tail (highly entertaining to watch), or sleeping peacefully, sometimes in my arms (so sweet). Every so often she sits on my shoulder and then leans over to lick my face (::melt::). However sometimes she tries to play with the laces of my sneakers while I try to put them on, or she tries to jump into my lap and doesn't quite make it, and I end up with claw marks, scratches, even two loooong gashes on my shins and thighs. Ow! So now she gets gently pushed away when she tries that.

In bad news, a few days ago my roommate got all congested and has itchy eyes. We are worried that she might be allergic to the cat, which would be devastating for all involved. It would be odd since she lived with a cat for months a few years ago, and we babysat Shpeetz for a few weeks just this past Pesach. She's going to see an allergist. Meanwhile, we're hoping it's just a badly-timed cold.

I'm still busy doing all the errands that I didn't do when I was teaching. I have A LOT of errands.

Also yesterday I went to the upsherin (first haircut, at the age of three), of the youngest child of my friend Beth, author of the now-defunct blog House of Joy. It was held at the kotel, and little Pinchas Daniel was extremely patient while friends and family members each cut a little snip of hair, and then while his father evened it out. Good time was had by all.

Nothing exciting to report, except my political opinions, which are VERY exciting -- exactly the reason I'm not in the mood to write them out. Blah.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Artemis Pictures

Photos from Artemis' first weekend with us:

Cat with Agatha Christie book, so you can see her size compared to Siggy's. (Siggy was pretty much exactly the size of the book.)

Artemis hanging out on roommate's arm:

Artemis hiding between my bins of "purim stuff" and "gift wrapping" and "papers to file someday" aka "the contained mess":

Artemis doing what she does best, hunting normally inanimate objects around the apartment, in this case a crumpled piece of paper we made into her toy (full video at my Facebook page):

Resting after a busy morning of chasing toys and humans:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Introducing Artemis!

Last night I went to the home of a family in Kiryat Moshe whose cat, Vanilla, had had a litter of kittens. The kittens were now 9 weeks old, recently weaned, and looking for homes. They'd been raised mostly indoors but allowed to wander outside when they wanted.

The litter had four kittens in total, but when I got there two were absent: the one female, Spotty -- who had gone AWOL about an hour earlier -- and a male named Blondie who the family were planning to keep, and who was roaming around outside. Since I preferred a male cat (after having been told they are easier to care for and more affectionate), it didn't matter to me about Spotty or Blondie. I focused my attention on the two male kittens who were sleeping on the couch.

I had brought a toy with me, and one of the kittens, named Blackie after his beautiful black and white stripes (you can see this family is quite literal in their pet naming) woke up and had the time of his life with this toy. He scampered all over the apartment, playing with the little stuffed mouse. It was quite entertaining.

Meanwhile his brother, Angel, would not wake up. He simply refused to be bothered. I could totally get that, but it was no way for me to evaluate his personality or energy levels. So I said I'd take Blackie.

In the few minutes after I chose Blackie, a few things happened:

1- Spotty was found in a cabinet and turned out to be nowhere near as pretty as Blackie. A weird mixture of stripes and spots, and something clearly wrong with one of her eyes.
2- Blondie came in from outside.
3- Spotty and Blondie were quite curious about the toy, and tried to get a view.
4- Blackie became extremely possessive of his toy and would hiss at the other cats when they tried to approach him.
5- Spotty licked my fingers so sweetly. Awwwww!
6- The owner was talking about what a nice personality Spotty has.
7- When I went to pick up Blackie to put him in the kitty carrier, he hissed at me and tried to scratch.

I decided that Blackie can stay with this family, and keep the toy, because he's a lost cause! And so Spotty came home with me.

I have renamed her Artemis, after the Greek goddess of the hunt. The name was Liza's idea, and suits this cat nicely.

She is twice as old as Siggy was, and twice as large. When I brought her home, Liza said "she's huge!" Our guest, Liz, who never met Siggy, said "She's tiny!"

She's also so much more energetic that only now do we realize how sick Siggy must have been from the day he arrived. Siggy would just walk around the apartment, begging to be held. The most energetic thing he ever did was climb up the bedskirt in Liza's room to her bed.

Artemis, meanwhile, chases her balls of aluminum foil, she chases the bottle cap she found, she chases her string, she does pushups on the dining-room chairs (because she just can't quite hoist herself up enough to the seat), and she eats without being prodded. She also is fond of naps in air-conditioned rooms, preferably curled up next to a human. And she likes being held for a minute or two and petted, but after a little time she decides she has other things to do. In other words, she's a normal cat - and quite a delightful one at that.

The vet came over today and pronounced that Artemis has worms (normal for a cat who'd been outside a lot) and an infection in her left eye (which explains why her eye looked yucky and she has guck around her nose), but all that can be healed.

What I like to say about Artemis is that she's no beauty queen, but she has a great personality. :-)

Pictures and video to be posted next week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Stuff

1- First of all, I love this video:

2- Still no kitty. Siggy's sibling has been AWOL for days now, so I've given up on adopting him/her. There is a woman in Kiryat Moshe whose cat had kittens 9 weeks ago, so I might adopt one of those. Luckily for me, Liza has decided that we're committed to taking in a cat, whether it's a street rescue or not.

3- I joined Twitter! Um, I guess I can't post my username here because I'm still playing the little game of not putting my whole, real name on this blog, even though I know that most of my readers know who I am anyhow. But if you go to Twitter and type in my name, you can find me. I'm the only one with my name in Jerusalem.

4- On Hillel Street, two doors up from Cafe Hillel (#6 I think), I found an English Tea House (a new one!) which has a full one-page NEW ENGLAND MENU. They serve corn chowder! Fish chowder! With cod! Apple Brown Betty! I could die. I actually had tears in my eyes when I saw it. Definitely plan to go back. Who here from New England wants to come? I want to make it a New England party.

5- I'm so looking for new work. Income would be good.

6- However, since I'm currently light on assignments, I've gotten a helluva lot done recently. My desk is organized, I had two doctor's appointments, I hung up pictures in my apartment that have been waiting over a year to be hung up, I finally checked out the Emek Refaim Street swimming pool (which I had never seen, even though I've lived a 10-minute walk from it for over 6 years) -- oh, God, that was amazing! I love water! -- I'm taking this Mediabistro course I mentioned in a previous post, etc. 'Tis all good.

7- It is so hot here. Melting!

8- Speaking of melting, I'm reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and I'm up to the chapter on volcanoes. Bryson is hysterical. Quote of the day: "Volcanologists may or may not be the worst scientists in the world at making predictions, but they are without question the worst in the world at realizing how bad their predictions are." This is no ordinary science book.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quick Update

1- The beginning of this week was very hard, what with Siggy dying. But as the days passed I (mostly) got over it. At this point, more time has passed since he died than the amount of time he was with us here. I'm 99% better.

2- On Sunday, I'm scheduled to adopt Siggy's sibling, a stripey cat whose sex is not known to us. Right now, Sibling is living on the street, but is being fed by Liza's friend Yuval and his girlfriend, Ira. Yuval and Ira have been terrific, feeding Sibling formula after the kittens were abandoned by their mother, and now solid food. But Sibling hasn't seen a vet and isn't being socialized to be a true indoor/outdoor pet. So we decided to bring him here ASAP, so he can be checked out by Dr. Doni (our new vet) and taught to be our cat. I just really, really hope he is a sturdy creature and won't die on us like his brother did. At least this time I'm prepared for the possibility.

3- Another reason the week got better: I finished a work project which had been hanging over me for a long, long time. Now that it's done, I actually have almost no work to do. Obviously that's not good, but, you know what? It's good. I need some time to do all the things I couldn't do when I was teaching and writing like a maniac. And indeed I've gotten many important things taken care of in the last couple of days.

4- I've started taking an online course with Mediabistro on Health and Medical Writing. A bit of professional tuning-up, getting past the plateau, jump-start, etc. It just started yesterday and will continue for eight weeks. If I like it I plan to take the Travel Writing Boot Camp course.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To My Readers in Florida

A person who is very dear to me, Eric Draper, is running for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture. He is currently the Deputy Director of the Florida office of the National Audubon Society, and has been active with Preservation 2000, Florida Forever, the Council of Sustainable Florida, the Florida Soil and Water Conservation Council, and the Democratic Party.

Eric is an expert in environmental and agricultural issues, and is a highly intelligent, humble, respected man who sincerely wants to serve the people. He is extremely talented at building consensus and helping others to work together.

If you live in Florida, please go to Eric Draper's website to learn more about him and/or support his campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

RIP Siggy

Last night he seemed to be doing so much better. He took bites of his new food a few times walked around the apartment a little. We thought he'd turned the corner.

This morning at 3 am Liza found Sigmund lying several meters from his little shoe-box bed, drenched (with sweat? Didn't smell like anything else in particular . . . ), and making an eerie noise. She immediately woke me up and told me he's dying. When she put him in my arms he was completely limp.

For two hours I sat in the salon holding Siggy, petting him and rocking him and willing him to die quickly, and crying. It was terrible. Every so often his head would move a little and he'd open his mouth and make a noise that sounded a little like a scream, like he was crying far away. He sounded like a ghost cat.

At around 4:30 his eyes got glassy and his nose started turning blue. I could tell he wasn't aware of anything any more, even though he was breathing a little and his heart was beating pretty quickly. At 5 I tucked him into his bed, took a shower, and went to sleep.

At 7:30 he was still alive. I petted him a little so that maybe he'd know I was there, and I read him the last few paragraphs of Watership Down, through my tears. He licked his lips a little.

By 9:30 he was gone. Maybe now he's in a place where he has the energy to play with his toys, and everything is made of salmon and warm spots.


Goodbye, Siggy. I'm glad we could make your last days a little more comfortable.

Liza and I have decided that we might take in Siggy's sibling, but only 3 weeks from now, since then the kitten will be 2 months old already -- and therefore more likely to live long-term, says the vet. We don't want to go through this again right now, watching a sweet little kitten take hours to die.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Sigmund is Sick

Siggy didn't eat for 24 hours so I took him to the vet again this morning. Diagnosis: infection in the GI tract. Prognosis: Not good. Siggy is very little and very sick. Not a promising combination.

His energy level has dwindled over the last day or two, and now he is sleeping almost all the time. The only positive indication we've had lately is that we did manage to get him to eat something at the vet's, and he had a few small bites just now.

The vet gave him an infusion against dehydration, and said that it's not uncommon for young street cats to simply be too fragile to withstand being abandoned by their mother; only when they've lived for 2 months can you be reasonably sure that this is a sturdy cat. He said to keep giving him small amounts to eat (of his special new sick-kitty food, mixed with a teeny bit of water) every few hours, and hope for the best. If he makes it for another few days, it will be a good sign.


Reader RivkA M. asked for a photo of Siggy with a reference object. Here he is with my paperback copy of the Hercule Poirot mystery Cat Among the Pigeons.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

1,001st post!

Siggy got sick today. Apparently he hadn't been eating much because he wasn't quite ready for solid food. Tomorrow he goes back to formula. Meanwhile he's drinking lots of water from the bottle, which is so cute.

A few pics from today:

Siggy nodding off next to fridge.

Yes, he is this small.

Liza's friend Naomi giving Siggy some TLC. Siggy loves it. Good thing, because Naomi will be babysitting Siggy when I go to the States at the end of August.

Siggy eating up the attention. You can see that he's got some skin problems and is quite scraggly, a result of being a street cat. When he starts eating regularly he'll get some medicine for that in his food.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

This post may be filled with typos

because I'm trying to write it while a kitten sleeps peacefully in the crook of my left elbow.

I have named him Sigmund. A nice, distinguished, slightly ironic name, which can be shortened to Siggy at appropriate moments of utter cuteness.

Sigmund seems to have two needs in life: sleep, and proximity to a warm human. If he is not sleeping, he's begging to be picked up. much like a human baby, actually. However, unlike a human baby, Sigmund does not seem to need food. In the last 24 hours he's eaten about 5 tiny bites of cat food and a few sips of egg yolk. This concerns me because his medicine is in the tuna and therefore he's not getting the proper dosage. He's also not drinking. My local cat gurus are telling me not to worry about it, that he'll eat when he's hungry.

Meanwhile, am I a Jewish mother or what? Putting food in front of his face and begging "please eat, please eat"?

Sigmund also has a habit of climbing up onto my shoulder, therefrom to better view the world at large while I walk around. Very cute, but I'm working on breaking him of the habit so that I won't have a huge, heavy cat later who thinks my shoulder is a nice perch.

Also, Siggy hates being washed with a damp cloth, but he'll have to deal because he's a rescue kitten and really filthy. With every wash we remove another layer of grime. (also it doesn't help that he gets himself covered with tuna and egg yolk. Not so dexterous yet, that Sigmund)

OK, gotta go. But if you want something fun to surf, click here for the new blog of my friend Miriam. She's hilarious.

Monday, June 08, 2009


On Friday, Liza got an IM from her friend Yuval: "Are you lonely?"

Liza responded "Um, what?"

Yuval: "Because if you are, maybe you want to adopt one of the abandoned kittens I rescued."

Apparently, something about the kittens' story tugged at Liza's heartstrings -- probably Yuval's description of them as fitting in the palm of his hand -- because out of the blue she -- she, who has repeatedly rebuffed my suggestions that we get a pet -- asked if I want to adopt a kitten.

So, now I have a kitten. It is *my* kitten, but Liza's enjoys the benefits of his yummy little ways. Last night, his first with us, he fell asleep in my hand.

I have small hands!

The plan was to name him Yuval, after his savior, but Yuval the Human wasn't keen on that so now I'm not sure. I'm also not sure that he is a "he." We're going to the vet today, so perhaps that will become more clear. :-)

There are more pictures and video at my Facebook page, which I made available to "friends of friends." (If you are not a friend or a a friend of a friend, sorry.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I love my students but ...

There are only 3 things worse than grading papers for a living:

1- Forced labor in, say, Siberia

2- Working with toxic waste

3- Not having work at all.

That's all I have to say.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Update

1- My nephew's surgery went fine. He is hearing and sleeping better already and is pretty much back to his usual self.

2- Grading papers is a b*tch.

3- I'm in one of those situations, familiar to freelancers, wherein I have several clients who each owe me a LOT of money, but none of it has come in yet, so as far as the bank and credit card companies are concerned, I'm destitute. I'm expecting, literally, many many thousands of shekels to come in during the next few weeks, but meanwhile I literally do not have bus money in my wallet. Crud.

4- The weather here in Jerusalem has been GORGEOUS lately. Wish you were here!

5- My roommate made chocolate-almond macaroons, held together by chocolate ganache, from scratch last night. I love my roommate!

Nothing else to report. May all those of you who celebrate Shabbat have a shalom one. :-)

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I have not dropped off the face of the earth.

Plenty to say, no time to say it.

Quick update: My teaching responsibilities have run away from me. Teaching five classes, with all the lesson planning and grading involved, is more than I can keep up with while also staying on top of my journalism work. Next year I'll have to give up something; I can't teach in two programs AND write for a living. Live and learn.

Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) was nice, low-key. I went to a traditional barbecue at the home of my friends C and M; R, G, and E were there also. 'Twas fun to be with friends.

This past week has been an emotional low point. :-( No other details forthcoming on a public blog.

Wish a refuah shelaimah (complete recovery) to my little nephew David, 3, who is having his adenoids removed next week! Poor little guy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

May Their Memories Be Blessed

Tonight begins Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel. I'd like to take a moment to remember those members of my family who were murdered in the Holocaust. I wish for my sake that I'd had a chance to meet them or their descendents (my distant cousins)... and for the sake of my grandparents that they hadn't died so young, all at the same time... and for the sake of my mother that such a trauma had never entered into her parents' lives.

Details are sketchy because my grandparents rarely spoke about their dead family members.

My great-grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Natan Pomeranzblum - an Ostrovyetzer chassid, my great-grandfather was born in Staszow, Poland and lived in Opatow, Poland before being murdered in 1942 at age 67. He may have been taken with his children to Treblinka, but there is also a family story that he was shot in his home.

His second wife (my grandmother's stepmother), Devorah nee Ivenski, and their twins. It is unclear to me whether the twins were my grandmother's half-siblings or stepsiblings.

My great-aunt Manya Kreinders, her husband and their three children. They died of starvation in the Lodz ghetto.

My great-uncle Salme Pomeranzblum. I don't know if he was married or had children. Killed in Treblinka.

My great-aunt Shprintze Pomeranzblum. I don't know if she was married or had children. Killed in Treblinka.

My great-aunt Vivcha Pomeranzblum. I don't know if she was married or had children. Killed in Treblinka.

My great-uncle Mottel Pomeranzblum. I don't know if he was married or had children. Killed in Treblinka.

The first wife of my great-uncle Simcha and their two children. I don't know their names, but come to think of it I can ask my mother's cousin; maybe he knows.

On another side of the family...

My great-grandmother Esther Spiegel, aka Anna/Netti.

The first wife of my grandfather, Helen Steiner (nee Kittner) and their young son, Heinrich, my half-uncle.

Also various family members who, as far as I know, were killed in the Holocaust but I'm not sure; they may have died some other way before the war. Come to think of it I should check with my mother:

My great-great uncle, Shalom Pomeranzblum.
My great-great aunt, Esther Malka Teuter and her husband, Avraham Michael Teuter.
My grandmother's cousin, Chaim Pomerazblum, and his son.
My great-great uncle Avraham Sosnowicz.