December 26, 2009

A Most Unusual Day

Today my Father-in-law became a Bar Mitzvah. It was a most unusual day.

Sam is 83 years old, and never had a proper Bar Mitzvah as a boy, so he elected to do it now.  Instead of handing the Torah down through the generations, today's ceremony started with handing the Torah UP, from the grandchildren, to the children, to the Bar Mitzvah.  When i heard the plan, it sounded a little corny, but when it actually took place, and my silver-haired husband handed the Torah over to his elderly father, I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes.

All of Sam's children and grandchildren were involved in the service in one way or another. And the members of this Los Angeles congregation did a wonderful job of planning the whole thing, bringing food, coordinating musicians, etc. Our friend from Portland even led folk-dancing, since he happened to be in L.A. at just the right time.

But there was one moment that just cracked me up, because it was so twilight-zone.  The after-meal "benching" was led by well-known radio celebrity Dennis Praeger, who is an active member of the congregation.  It was pretty interesting, because it was almost like a Las Vegas lounge act, with actual applause at the end!  Let me tell you, this guy never met a microphone he didn't like.  So then, I sent a text message to my brother to tell him Praeger was leading benching.  Let's see... can you picture this...  I'm sending a text message on my cell phone (on Shabbes) to say that Dennis Praeger is leading benching at the Bar Mitzvah of my 83-year-old Father-in-law.  What could be unusual about any of that???

November 23, 2009

Messiah Coming Soon?

Well, Michael's was very disappointing. Didn't really find anything I was looking for. Of course, that doesn't mean I left empty-handed, but you know.... now i still need to hit a proper art supply store.                                                                
But here's the big news.  As soon as i finished drawing the Owl for our class homework, I took a deep breath and..... I drew my dog!!!  This has been itching at the back of my mind for a few weeks.... that I could probably do it, somehow.  And once the teacher presented the Owl, I felt that I could probably do Nacho.  It wasn't easy, but I did it, and it actually looks like him!  So I'm pretty excited.  A mere two months ago I could never have considered drawing something real.  And now... well, maybe the Messiah is near !

November 19, 2009

Colorful Ancient Memories

Tomorrow I'm going to  Michael's for a few things, including some kind of watercolor paints for our class homework.  Tonight I was googling 'watercolor paints' and it brought back a memory that I haven't thought of in over 40 years!  When I was a small child, maybe 5 years old, my parents bought me this metal tin of watercolor paints, but it was a really big set, with a LOT of colors. I don't remember how many, but it seemed like a HUNDRED!  Each one was a small square of color, and eventually some of the colors got used up before others, which was frustrating.  But all in all, I really LOVED that paint set!  Can't remember anything I painted with it, but I have a distinct memory of the FEELING of it, the smell, and the excitement.  Man, I love colors!  Hmmmm.... I'm gonna have to exercise some self-control at the store tomorrow.  Then again, sometimes self-control is overrated!

Paintbox photo from

November 18, 2009

New Toys!

Who knew there were such cool toys?  Last week I missed our drawing class, so I missed out on the electric eraser, but this week we were introduced to a water-brush, and watercolor pencils!  These are very clever inventions, and way too much fun!  You can fill the water brush with water and then take it with you, along with your watercolor paints, and paint anywhere without making (much of) a mess.

And then there's the watercolor pencils, which seem like regular colored pencils, except they're water soluble, so when you run your nifty-spiffy water brush over the drawing, the color dissolves into watercolor paint.  I may be the only person in North America who didn't know about their existence, but it's news to me, and fun news at that!

The teacher also introduced us to the idea of  less-is-more with regard to watercolor paints. But anyone who knows me knows this is a tough sell. Still, I tried NOT to color in the entire picture.

We actually had a fun class tonight, because only a few people showed up, so it was more casual and intimate than usual, and I think this served the teacher well.  I drew a pretty good copy of a picture of a covered bridge.  It's not done yet, but I'll post it when I'm finished.  I got a great compliment when Gershon came homehe looked at the drawing and said "wait, I thought you couldn't draw!"  Heh-heh...

October 13, 2009

Dust to Dust

I just had the sad responsibility of telling my Mom that Louise Hefter passed away.  Louise was one of "the moms" when we were growing up.  And she and Gerry were founding members of Israel Academy, loyal supporters of my Dad's, and true friends of our family.  The news was very hard for my Mom to hear, and hard for me as well.

Louise was such a special, wonderful person.  Always smiling, even in the craziest, nastiest times.  People always say that kind of thing about a person, how special they were. But Louise really was something else.  She always made people feel so comfortable and loved.  And everyone loved her.  It's hard to find the words to describe her old-fashioned supportiveness.

Funny what comes to mind at this moment.  When my father died, there was bedlam in our house, and among our large community of friends.  The funeral was huge, the crowd at the meal afterward was enormous.  But in the middle of it all, Louise took the time to make her famous eggplant parmesan just for us.  Now that I know how time-consuming it is to make, I really appreciate her dedication in the middle of all the craziness that week, to make us that dish simply because I asked for it. There might have been more important ways for her to allot her time at that moment, but maybe not.  I will remember that meal forever, the comfort of the food and the love that went into it.

Louise is the first of "the moms" to pass away.  Of course, several of the dads are gone, but this is a new hurt. It feels scary as well as sad. Time keeps moving, and we just have to use it as well as we can.

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet.


October 11, 2009

I'm a dot-com!

Okay, I finally did it.  I decided a long time ago to register my own domain name and pay for commercial hosting. But I never did it, mainly because I couldn't decide on the domain name.  With Yahoo closing down Geocities later this month, my existing website is going to disappear, so now the pressure was on.  This indecision's killin' me.... so I asked some friends their opinions:  EstherBeads  or CrownJewels?  Can you guess what the results of this little poll were?  You guessed it -- a tie!

What to do? What to do?  Did a little more research today, and found that the Crown Jewels thing is a little sticky, although I think I could have  Made an executive decision to go with and I registered the domain name and ordered hosting service.  Yay!  So now I'm all grown-up, just like the big kids.  All I have to do now is get the website established, and then upload all those ridiculous pages.  I should start over from scratch, but I just don't have the time right now, and I want to have something there when people come home from the 10/25 show with my card in their hands.

Slowly, slowly, I'm getting there.  After the first of the year, I'm going to get serious about re-doing the pages, and getting shopping carts for myself and for the ORA site.  Dream big, little girl!

October 8, 2009

Respect the Flow

Okay, we have stopped procrastinating, and hired a contractor to work on the flooding problem. They are excavating along the front length of the house, and will seal the whole foundation with a series of super-duper high-tech materials to prevent future flooding.

But you have to also address the fundamental problem, and it's fascinating to see what previous attempts are revealed as the excavation goes deeper into the ground. (See how I'm making this sound like a positive experience?)  There was some kind of tar applied to the house, but either it wasn't very well done, or it just disintegrated over the years.  There is also a long French Drain, which is a good idea, but was incorrectly done. (See my earlier comment on incompetence.) There are holes in the foundation itself, apparently from bolts which rusted over the years.

You have to respect the flow.  The water is not going away. The rains will not stop. And the house will (we hope) continue to sit on the side of a hill.  So you have to plan for those things, and accomodate as well as you can.  We will replace the French Drain with a properly built one, possibly expanded to cover more area.  That seems to be the best way to spread the water around over a larger, deeper area. And the series of insulations they're applying should protect the foundation from the inevitable moisture.  And the trees which had to be removed will be replaced with more appropriate bushes, placed a little further away from the house.

The cost of respect?  Pretty much the same as the cost of disrespect: astronomical.  And rising each day.  Sigh....

(Painting:  "The Sound of Many Waters" by J.E. Millais)

October 2, 2009

Grapes and Mangos

I started my drawing class, and the teacher insists that everyone can actually draw. We'll see about that. First assignment was to copy this picture of grapes. Most people's grapes looked more like mangos to me, and some looked like bowling balls! I guess we're not quite there yet, but it was better than I expected.

October 1, 2009

Incompetence Everywhere

Can there really be that many incompetent fools in our world? How does the world continue to function? Sigh....


September 29, 2009

Time Flies

Wow, strange year! I haven't written anything for my blog, mainly because I'm busy trying to keep the ORA blog current. I'm not cut out for two blogs. Oh well, no one reads this one anyway.

So let's see, what happened since my last entry on January 28?
Oh yeah: Facebook! This thing has been incredible! I'm up to around 200 "friends," including a wonderful number of old Solel friends. It's been so fun to catch up with people I haven't seen in 35 years! And new connections too... people you know vaguely become real "friends" when you read each other's musings on FB. I find it fascinating, and gratifying.

Also this year: L.A. in January, Safam concert at CNS, RACC computer class, the crazy shit surrounding Robby's Bar Mitzvah, Pesach at the Conroys' (dining with Duke), Maimouna, trip to Oakland (sick as a dog), all the heartache around CNS releasing Cantor Shivers, the farewell dinner and Robby-Solomon-Shabbat, Dana and Craig came to visit, Gus Hanawalt's Hawaiian wedding, Micah's UofO graduation, Sonia and I went up to visit Lucille, Lucille visited here, Jonah's Bar Mitzvah in Boston, Judith Berdichevsky passed away, Micah got a real job, Joel screwed up in schoool, Nacho's seizures, my continuing efforts with Mary Lou to find a suitable med, Marty Berger's Bar Mitzvah, our 35th anniversary trip to Vancouver and Seattle, Kim and Paris visited here last week, plus lots of Mah Jongg, many books read, and lots of ORA meetings.

Well! No wonder I haven't written... I've been kind of busy! Still, it's hard to believe that this calendar year is 3/4 finished, and we just concluded RH and Yom Kippur 5770!

And now our big ORA show is only 4 weeks away! Am I ready? Not even close! I was thinking of writing about the Bead Fest show this past weekend, but I think I should go do some beading instead.

January 28, 2009

Paying It Forward

Les Sarnoff is blogging about his fight with cancer. His voice has been part of Oregonians' lives for so long, we feel he's family. Well, today he's writing about the importance of helping others, and the concept of "paying it forward." And it reminded me that I never shared this wonderful true story with you.

Last summer, some friends of ours downsized to a condo, and gave us a spare T.V. We were delighted, and wanted to thank them, so we decided to get them some sort of gift certificate. There's a coffee place they like, so I went there to get a gift card. The young woman at the cash register attempted to process the purchase, but she was clearly perturbed. The machine showed that the purchase was paid, but I hadn't actually paid yet. She pressed a LOT of buttons, cocked her head a lot, then tested the card, and concluded that there was no reason, not even any WAY for me to actually pay! I begged her to take my phone number, because the till would likely come up short at the end of the day, but she insisted "no, it's our problem."

So I walked out thinking "This is my lucky day. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket!" And then I thought "No, I need to donate this money that I just saved, to some worthwhile cause." As i walked to my car, I considered many possible charities. But when I got in the car and turned on the ignition, the radio was already on, and the KINK disc jockey was saying ".... and they're accepting donations right now."

It was a real Twilight Zone moment! I listened carefully to hear which charity they were discussing, went straight home to check the website, and immediately made a donation online.

This became the ultimate "pay it forward." We got a free tv, our friends got free coffee, the charity got a cash donation, and Oregon's schools & students benefit. How cool is that??

January 7, 2009

A Tragic Loss

This past Yom Kippur, I ventured out of my little world, and attended services at Portland's Renewal congregation, P'nai Or. It was an amazing experience, full of music and meaning and heartfelt confessions. And they did this amazing thing with Unetaneh Tokef, intertwined with Leonard Cohen's song, "Who By Fire."

Of course, the heart of this congregation has been their Rabbi, Aryeh Hirschfield. His spirit and music and passion were irresistable, and inspiring. His charisma & strong sense of ethics reminded me of my departed father. The congregation loved him, and it was easy to see why.

So, today I was more than stunned by the news of Rabbi Aryeh's untimely drowning death yesterday. Like so many in our community, I am striving unsuccessfully to make sense of this tragedy. And the words of Unetaneh Tokef just keep running through my mind.... who shall perish by water....

Everybody ever touched by Rabbi Aryeh is grieving tonight. It is unbearably sad. But there is also a certain magnificence in the power of love that binds us together in our grief. May his righteous memory be for a blessing... zecher tzadik livracha.