Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book meme

So I have been tagged by Sally Hazel for this meme. My first one! Where do I start?

Here are the rules: Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST. Tag five other people to do the same.

"The existence of a day of judgment means that God is interested in us. He cares. What we do does ultimately matter."

Shimon Apisdorf, Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit

I am writing this from work during lunch, so this was the closest book to my computer. I am not showing off. Actually, quite the opposite. This is the unequivocal proof that I am more than qualified to start a disorganized religion of my own. I was carrying this book with me before Rosh Hashanah to refresh a few ideas and maybe finally finish reading it. I am fairly certain that I didn't finish it and instead fell asleep every time I took it out of my purse. And one time I had too many things in my purse, so I took the book out planning to declultter my purse and bring the book home the very next day. (Wait, I need to take a break and wipe off the tears - I am laughing so hard. Declutter! The very next day! hahahahaha)

Of course I didn't, and once in a while I would bump into the book and promise myself to finally bring it home. Over time, the book migrated closer and closer to my computer, in hopes of serving as a reminder and eventually making it to the bookshelf in my living room. It finally became a permanent fixture on my work desk a few months ago and blended in with the rest of the stuff, so I stopped noticing it. Until I got this meme and was horrified that I might need to quote my accounting textbook. Fear not though, it probably would never get to that. I realized that I have two more books on my desk (all close by, so I wouldn't forget to bring them home) before Intermediate Accounting becomes the next physically closest to me.

I am not tagging anyone. Seems like everyone had already done this meme. If you are reading this and haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Next to Godliness...

A philosophy lesson for the day from DD,

"Hashem (G-d) doesn't burp. Neither does Vinnie the Pooh."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Jim letter and the various shades of blue

Dear Jim,

I guess after all that waiting, it just might not work. I am sad, are you?

The first time I lay eyes on you, I was about eighteen in the waiting room of my orthodontist. Quite frankly, you were not my type then. Ace Ventura, The Cable Guy, even the The Mask were not my cup of tea. So when during those long hours waiting to be seen by the doc, I picked up a magazine with your interview. I didn't think it would interest me. And it didn't. I was just mindlessly turning the pages until I saw this:

And everything between us changed. I suddenly saw your depth and was completely mesmerised. There was something about this picture that made me look, even stare. Until I got called for my appointment. When I came back, the magazine was gone, and so were you. But I remembered the picture.

Years went by, you matured and grew into "The Truman Show" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", among other things. And we finally totally clicked. However, in my mind you were always a guy from this picture. That's probably how I will always think of you.

But what does it have to do with my blog? A few weeks ago I promised to spruce it up. Naturally, I thought of you and your picture to be a more than worthy replacement of the picture I had before.

Can I tell you something? I never truly liked that baby. I posted his picture in haste when I couldn't find anything better. But this baby gave me creeps. He always looked cold and his skin had a blue tinge that made me wish to cover him with a blanket. Don't tell anyone, but I secretly dubbed him "the blue baby." So many times I wanted to replace him with something else, but inadvertently I cornered myself by selecting a baby: what kind of a heartless witch would replace a baby picture? So I patiently waited for the respectable amount of time to pass, so that I could finally put a picture that didn't make me run for a pair of warm socks every time I looked at it. I have waited for a year, Jim, a YEAR! before I took that picture down and replaced it with yours.

Unfortunately, some readers developed an attachment to that baby and ironically referred to you as the "blue dude." So what would you do if you were me? Would you bow down to the pressure of the masses or would you stand your ground? I tried reaching you, but you wouldn't answer me. (I blame Jenny.) So here's what I decided. I will take the decision out of my hands, and let the people vote on it. I (not so) secretly hope you win though.

Your truly,

Subjugated Wife.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On cookies, donuts and organized religion

These are just my musings on the topic of Holiday Season. They are too short to get a post of their own, plus I am not sure if I'll manage to get another post out for this to be relevant. So there. Oh, and before I forget,


Holiday season happens to be the time when our large vendors send us, their good customers, Christmas baskets with edible goodies. I do appreciate the thought and all, but would it kill them to send something kosher? I mean, we live in NY, how hard could it be? Yes, I do realize that complaining about Christmas baskets not being kosher is at best ironic. But when the 3 p.m. hunger strikes and everyone around happily munches on gourmet cookies while you hope to satiate yourself with your own saliva, philosophical musings are the last thing that comes to mind.

Here's one for marriage experts to illustrate that men truly are from Mars. I call hubby today and ask if he would like some donuts. Ask any woman (any sane woman) what that means, and she will tell you, “Honey, would you be so kind as to pick up a few dozen donuts from the bakery on your way home?" What does a male hear? "Honey, would you be so kind as to allow me to spend hours in kitchen for the honor of serving you some home made donuts?" and replies with “Yeah, sure, make some.” Ugh, whatever, they are hopeless… When I explain the true meaning behind the question , hubby is genuinely surprised, “But you like making donuts!” Yes, I also like expensive jewelry, playing preferance and girls only nights out. I don't see anyone rushing to fulfill those likes of mine...


This is the time of the year when one hears a lot of griping about organized religion (as far as I am concerned, in 99% of the cases this is just an excuse to avoid going to church or whatever else the religion would obligate the person to do). So I had a bright idea. What if I started a disorganized religion? Or religion for the disorganized? Either option would be fine, if it let me quit my day job and spend more time with kids. I even have a motto, "Mess for the masses." Something to look into...

P.S. As this post was edited, a very nice woman from a different department came over and brought me a package from a vendor that is delicious AND kosher. And left it on my desk since she knows we don't get many of those. How nice is that? And another (male) co-worker brought in a kosher donut, just for me (and other three kosher people on the floor). SubHub, if I were you, I would start getting jealous...and run to the bakery.

P.P.S. He ran, even before he heard that there's a competition. OK, got to get off the computer and start consuming all that nice food.


Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

УМОМ РОССИЮ НЕ ПОНЯТЬ (One cannot understand Russia using logic)

I have found yet another evidence that Russia will most likely never be a normal country. At least not in my lifetime.

While looking something up on the net, I have come across an interesting piece of info: there is a movement in Russia organized in the late 90s that heavily lobbies for Ivan the Terrible's recognition as a saint. In the past nine years or so, the movement only gathered more and more followers. I will not go into much detail about many saints who are already recognized and who led far from saintly lifestyles. The fact that many of them were murderers, vicious anti-Semites, womanizers and drunks would not surprise most educated people. But Ivan the Terrible? The serial murderer, rapist, and torturer? The man responsible for thousands and thousands of deaths of his fellow Orthodox Christians? That goes beyond anything I have seen before. But honestly, the only thing that truly surprises me is that Ivan is not a saint yet. Russians develop masochistic devotion and attachment to their tzars, especially the ones that kept the country "in control", i.e. engaged in the most amount of terror against Russian citizens.

After reading this info, I mumbled to myself, "The next thing you know, those nuts will ask for Stalin to be recognized a saint too." But I spoke too early. Not long after, I found that there's a movement for that too...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sharing is not always caring

Apparently, verbal diarrhea can spread to other parts of the body. Sigh… Today my lunch buddy and I decided to deviate from our routine and ordered Chinese.

Do you know what my fortune cookie said? “Share your happiness with others today.” It might be a bit presumptuous on my part, but I am fairly certain that others want me to keep my “happiness” to myself, especially today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Does Pepto work for verbal diarrhea?

Today I went to DD's Chanukah party. It involved girls singing a few songs, some mother-daughter activities and consumption of a self-decorated donut. Not bad and not too long. Miraculously I came on time and didn't forget the camera. That lucky streak of me doing things right couldn't last.

During the singing part of the event, the music teacher started telling the story about Shani the rabbit who had a lot of sisters, and a lot of brothers and... One of the girls called out, "And a lot of fathers!" Most mothers politely giggled, and red lights and alarms went off in my head: DON'T SAY ANYTHING, DON'T SAY ANYTHING, DON'T SAY ANYTHING. Sigh... With alarms ignored, I whispered to my neighbor, "This information sounds a bit advanced for a four-year-old, don't you think?" Yep, DD. Mommy is trying to make a good impression...

Overall we had fun. Of course no school party is complete without some waterworks. As we got to the eating part of our activities, DD noticed that one of her classmates was crying. I said that she was crying because her Mommy left. DD immediately calculated the situation, "But you are not leaving. We are going home. Right?" Sigh. "No, sweetie, Mommy is going to work, like I told you yesterday and this morning." You should've seen it: those big gray eyes got even bigger and there it started. At least she wasn't alone. I don't know who was more traumatized, me or her.

Next week it's DS's turn. More songs, donuts and trauma on the way...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting to know you

(As was told by my Mom.) Two weeks ago DD went to my parents. She was in the bathroom when my Mom knocked. DD said non maliciously, "Go away, please." Mom said, "The nice way to say this is, "I need my privacy." Do you want to repeat it?" After pondering a few moments, DD decided to stick to the old and tried version and said, "Please, go away." And then promised to be out soon. She then proceeded to washing hands (that takes a while, DD is VERY thorough), brushing her teeth, and then washing her hands again. Mom knocked and reminded DD that other people also need to use the bathroom, to which DD replied, "I need my privacy."

Something in a way this was said prompted Mom to think that this was DD's attempt at humor. I said, I would have loved to believe that she has a sense of humor, but this episode alone doesn't really prove it one way or the other. DD could've just decided to be a bit bratty or try using a new phrase.

It was not the end of the saga, though. A week later, DD asked for cereal. She said, "Mama, I want cereal please." I decided I could teach her a more sophisticated version and said, "It would be nice to say, "Mommy, could you please give me cereal?" Can you repeat that?" DD gave it a try, almost got it, but on my second request to repeat the new phrase, she gave me a long look and said, "Mommy, I need my privacy."

And just like my Mom a week before, I was left wondering whether DD was making a joke, tried to tell me to get lost or simply repeated another fancy phrase she recently learned. And with her, it truly is hard to know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Something EVERY wife should know.

On a lighter note...

Attention, nagging wives everywhere! You now have a free pass to nag your husband incessantly, courtesy of a fellow nagging wife in New Zealand. Next time hubby complaints about your nagging, you can just tell him, "I am doing it for us and our future, honey," and show him the article.

If only the winnings would be directly related to the amount of nagging ... ahh, wishful thinking.

Those were bloody murders

I still haven't managed to put together the serious post I have been nursing for some time now. But I found this, and this post, though not exactly on the same topic, expresses very well at least some of the frustration that I have with our media.


The Chabad Rabbi in India was not 'Killed'
Media suppresses word 'murder' and overlooks 'torture' by Islamic terroristsBy Shelomo AlfassaNEW YORK (December 1, 2008)

On Thanksgiving Day 2008, gunshots rang out startling the family of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and others inside the Chabad center in Mumbai, India. A maid at the Chabad center thought it was firecrackers--then an Islamic gunman came up the stairs. Explosions and gunshots rattled the building and continued through the night. At the same time the Chabad center is attacked, Islamic terrorists were attacking a police station and a few minutes later they opened fire at a hospital. They also opened fire in restaurants and at hotels, all together, at over 10 locations, the Islamic terrorists murdered over 190 people.

The Chabad center maid told the media that the gunmen destroyed the elevator, dining room and "everything" else. The rabbi ran to the telephone to call the Israeli Consulate. He got them on the line, told them there were men with guns in the house, but in the middle of the conversation, the line went dead after the rabbi said, "something's wrong" and the rabbi's wife was heard screaming "SEND HELP IMMEDIATLY."

The rabbi was grabbed by the Muslim terrorists, held down and had a belt secured around his legs to prevent him from walking. Several other Jews in the center had their hands and feet bound with telephone cords or nylon rope. The Indian Express reported that, Rabbi Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and their three friends died in a "brutal manner..." The paper horrifically reported that there was "brutality unleashed on the Holtzberg." The paper reported that police photos inside the Chabad center spoke, "volumes of the nightmare the family and their friends must have gone through before they died." The Rabbi's body was found in a room on the second floor, with his legs under the mezuzah, stretching into the hall where his wife's body was found. Rivka's body was found near the legs of Rabbi Holtzberg, the floor was covered red in blood. The rabbi's 2-year-old son Moshe was found drenched in blood, crying in the silence, beside his parents who lay dead on the floor. The dead bodies of the murdered Jews were then booby-trapped with live hand grenades and other explosives. Indian security forces indicated the Jewish women were murdered first, as the Jewish men were first tortured before being murdered.

In the United States, where the news media like to cover up all things which may make Muslims look bad, they never mentioned that the Israelis were mutilated beyond belief. In the Digital Journal news, it was also reported that the victims of the terrorist attacks had been tortured. In the words of one doctor, "It was shocking and disturbing." A doctor who conducted the post-mortems on the victims added: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again."When someone is "killed" they may have been hit by a car, drowned at sea or struck by lightning. In contrast, when someone is "murdered," this speaks of a victim who was targeted with premeditated malice. It is someone who inhumanly had their life taken from them, it is someone who was a victim of severe mutilation, targeted brutality, a person who had their life taken by another person who sought them dead. This begs the question, why did the media avoid using the word "murdered" ?

The Wall Street Journal reported: "The dead also included a young New York rabbi and his wife..."
The Boston Globe reported: "the New York rabbi and his wife were among the foreigners killed..."
The International Herald Tribune reported: "Two of the victims, a rabbi and his wife..."
The Sun-Sentinel reported: "killed were Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, and his wife, Rivkah, 28, who died in the attack..."
The Associated Press reported: "The bodies of New York Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, were found at the Jewish center..."
National Public Radio reported: "Among the dead are Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka..."
The New York Times reported: "six of the hostages were killed, including the Brooklyn couple who operated the center..."
The Los Angeles Times reported: "the Chabad Lubavitch members who were killed by militants"

The stupidity of the Western media is blatant. What is not being made clear in prominent Western media is that this was a meticulously planned and well-organized attack. What is the motivation of journalists in trying to downplay these heinous atrocities? Do they wish to express some sympathy for these murderers? The mainstream media remains a giant bureaucracy with no feeling, soul, or intelligence. They make it too easy for blatant evil to be excused or explained away.

The Muslim murderers had a well coordinated well thought out plan. They had been in the country for months, obtained jobs in the area, stockpiled food for the siege, and stockpiled ammunition enough to kill thousands. Some of the Muslim murderers had even rented rooms in the Chabad center! They utilized BlackBerry email devices to stay in touch with each other and outsiders, to exchange intelligence information in different locations during the attacks. An Indian Marine commando told the media that it was obvious the terrorists were well trained. The Marine said the attackers were "very determined and remorseless." The Times of India reported that the sole surviving murderer told Indian police that the terrorists were sent with a specific mission of targeting Israelis at Chabad House in order to avenge "atrocities committed against the Palestinians."

The Chabad rabbi and his wife (as well as the other 190+ victims) were not killed, they were murdered, there is a difference, and one that needs to be differentiated at every opportunity.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Family dinner, the MasterCard style, Director's cut

Time needed to prepare dinner for seven: 2 days with prep time.

Time available: 6 hours.

Cooking time for that one side dish that you inevitably forget to serve (inevitably family favorite): 2 hours.

Number of times freaked out due to various reasons: let's not go there.

Number of "Thank you, L-rd" said over your family's tardiness: 1 per each minute of lateness.

Forcing your younger single brother to listen to your parenting challenges: Priceless.

Feeling vindicated after your younger brother (probably under the influence of alcohol, which in turn was consumed in excess to drown your oversharing of parenting challenges) confesses that you were treated much stricter than him due to your more advanced age and supposedly higher wisdom that comes with it: Even more priceless.

Observing your mother's reaction to his confession: Heh, heh, priceless!

Realizing a few hours later that you are repeating the pattern: Also priceless, but in a different sort of way.


Calling Mom and commiserating together on the challenges of parenting and ungrateful kids: Yep, truly and honestly priceless.

Everybody loves fruit

I have tried to write a serious post for about a week, but whatever I wrote came out to be incomprehensible not to my satisfaction. And it's one of those posts: if I can't say it right, then I shouldn't say it at all. I'll come back to it some other time and give it a shot when my head is clearer or my writing abilities improve, which will happen ... well, probably never.

So I decided to go back to the basics and write not about politics, current events, or anything requiring any serious brain ability, but about what's eating me inside. Well, actually, this post is about what I am eating.

I have found myself consuming an inordinate amount of sugar recently. It has actually become a compulsion, and I was unable to stop. Then I had an epiphany: maybe, I am missing fruit! So the next time I went weekly shopping, I picked up a few pomegranates and a couple of mangoes. I don't particularly care for winter apples, and generally anything bought out of season is a waste of money, as far as I am concerned. I am not sure if pomegranates and mangoes are in season, but I rarely indulge in those fruits; however, the one I picked looked good, and there was nothing better, except for apples.

I was not disappointed. Pomegranate was delicious (and on sale, might I add).

It was awesome and very ripe. AND aesthetically very pleasing. I just lo-o-ove looking at pomegranates, right before viciously consuming them. The repeat though was not as successful. The next time I bought pomegranates, they were a bit overripe, but still quite good and still on sale .
Doesn't that look awesome? And it tasted awesome too. So good that I ran to the grocery store the next day to buy some more. So good that even DS, who normally avoids fruits and veggies like plague, had some and liked it. So good that I am thinking of taking out a second mortgage on our house and buying some more. Ok, so we don't have a house and a mortgage, but if we did... the price of fruit had become truly outrageous, in my opinion.

And yesterday I went to the store to pick up some basic stuff, and ran into cherries. I don't think I have ever seen cherries in December, so naturally I couldn't resist.

And they were pretty decent, especially for December. Kids really enjoyed them, well, adults too.

Now I am waiting for these beauties.

Right now every time I am in a store, they are still not ripe, but hopefully soon. Otherwise, it might be this:

And the aftermath of it won't be as pretty as the pictures above. Not that right now it's an eye candy or anything... Sigh... Deep sigh...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I wanna hold your ... hand?

For various reasons we had to take our kidlets on the subway last week. Going to Manhattan presented little problem since they (SubHub and kids, I was at work) were going against the traffic. We naively thought that going back shouldn’t be a problem either, but we were dead wrong. Apparently there are almost as many people on the train at 8 p.m. as there are at 6 p.m. So when we boarded Q train, there were no seats available. Surprise, surprise, no one offered a seat either. We had no choice but to tough it out.

SubHub was holding DD and our bags; I ended up with DS. I was holding him tight, but the little fella got a big scared on one of the steep turns and started looking for something to grab on in addition to my hand. Due to his height limitation, he couldn’t find anything suitable, except for some woman’s jeans-clad calf. I asked him to stop, but to no avail; he was grabbing on for his dear life. Both SubHub and I got beet red and couldn’t wait for this ride to be over. The woman half turned, gave us one annoying look, but then submitted to her fate. After all, being molested by a handsome cute 2-yr old is not the worst thing that can happen to one on the subway.

The steep turn was over in about a minute and things returned to normal, except that both SubHub and I were still beet red. In a few stops one of the seats in front of that woman became available. So seeing a family with two little children, this young woman did the most natural to any decent human being thing - she offered the seat to us, NOT. She grabbed it just as fast as DS grabbed her calf three minutes earlier. The woman still kept on throwing annoyed glares in our direction, but she looked a bit relieved at the same time. Finally she was in relative safety, rescued from unwanted advances of our son. That’s when my deep feeling of embarrassment was replaced by an even deeper feeling of regret. Why didn’t DS pinch her while he was at it?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


This is the conversation that happened last week.

DD: Mommy, Karen (not real name) came to my school today!
Me: Which Karen, sweetie? The one that used to go playgroup with you?
DD: No... Karen speaks Russian!
Me: (Realizing that DD could only know one Karen who speaks Russian, and that girl is a daughter of a friend. So I am becoming curious to know whether they are considering our school for next year.) DD, are you sure Karen never came to your playgroup?
DD: She is not in a playgroup. She came to my school.
Me: Ok, but when Karen was a baby, did she go to your playgroup?
DD: (looks at me as if I have two heads) Karen was never a baby!
Me: Uh-huh...

FYI, we did eventually agree that Karen did go to DD's playgroup, but it took a while. I am not sure I was believed that Karen was ever a baby.

It took me 30 years to figure this out

How come no plates/cards/balloons say "Go wise at 30?"

I just looked over my top ten confessions, and realized that at least one is outdated. Since October, I am no longer fast approaching thirty, I am quickly moving away from it toward even a greater number. Oh well. One day I will spruce up the blog, update some quotes, etc, insert new links for favorite posts, but not today. Today I will dedicate this post to turning thirty, becoming wiser (oh, shut up, miracles do happen) and things I have learned between turning 20 and now. No matter how much I tried to make this post funny, I couldn't. For some reasons most findings were either sad or depressing. I am either in a bad mood or was a hopeless optimist in my teens. Or maybe a bit of both...

So this is what I learned/discovered in the past 10 years, in no particular order:

About People
1. People who are very sensitive are usually the ones who are rather oblivious to sensitivities and needs of others. On the one hand, as my friend had put this when I shared my "discovery" - duh, on the other hand, not so obvious.

2. People can change. Whether they do or whether they change for the better is something that will require another ten years to figure out.

3. Not everyone possesses conscience. This one was a biggie and still scares me to no end.

4. Many people don't give the meaning of life, their values or anything else not pertaining to their daily life any or a lot of thought. This was another shocker.

About Myself
1. It's not as easy to be brave or speak up after becoming a parent. What seemed like a cowardly behavior in pre-parenting days starts looking more and more like a responsible thing to do.

2. I am not as smart/funny/a lot of other things as I thought.

3. I have learned to be more forgiving of myself. I also never had as many moments filled with self-loathing. It somehow is not contradictory.

4. Must learn to trust my intuition.

5. I must learn to shut up. Before I say too much.

6. I have an obsession with number 10. No matter how hard I try, most of my lists end up containing 10 points or a number divisible by 10. Even if I don't pre-number the points. What's up with that?

7. I would still prefer to trust people and get disappointed once in a while than trust no one to avoid heart break. Only now I say this with less conviction.

About Life in General
1. Achievement of any kind takes a lot of hard work. I know, we've been told that on many occasions in schools, colleges, books... But it really takes a LOT of HARD WORK. Like a LOT.

2. Not every fight is worth fighting. Not every picked fight is worth finishing.

3. Being right is pleasant, but overrated.

4. Life will never be fair to women. (On a purely superficial level only. I am not talking big scale fair - like is G-d fair, or something like this.)

5. Accounting doesn't have to be, but most often is boring.

6. This one is probably a cliche, but I will say it any way. The more I think I understand the world around me, the faster I am proven that I understood nothing... So the longer I live, the less things make sense to me. Not very encouraging.

Maybe the next decade will make me wiser.

P.S. If you don't mind sharing, what were the big discoveries of your 20s?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Fellow Americans - SubReview

Expectations: I have seen this movie several times. So I knew exactly what to expect.

Plot: Two former Presidents learn too much about a kick-back deal with a contractor. Even though they hate each other, they must find a way to work together to save their lives and stop the evil President from returning to the office for the second term. It's the Odd Couple, White House style.

My take: The first time I watched it I was not greatly impressed - a slightly above average comedy. But the more I watch this, the more this movie grows on me. The jokes don't get old, the plot is still fresh even 12 years later, and the acting is excellent. This movie has now joined my short list of reliable mood picker- uppers. I also think that it is particularly funny in light of recent elections and would be a good choice for anyone, conservative or liberal. When I watched it yesterday, I enjoyed it even more than the last time.

Objectionable materials: some brief nudity and usage of f-word. Overall, pretty clean.

Bottom line: Watch it with someone who is still dear to you, but voted for a different candidate. Even if you don't mend your broken relationship, there will be plenty of laughs to make this a worthy endeavor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kosher lunch in 30 easy steps

I keep kosher and work in Manhattan, so getting lunch presents certain challenges. I do realize that the following post is a confession of a spoiled brat since people in other parts of the country/world/Manhattan have a much harder time finding kosher food or any food at all. But then again, it's my blog and my whining. Whoever wants to remind me about starving children in Africa is free to leave a comment, Mom .

So this is lunch, a-la SubWife, in 30 easy steps.

1. Promise yourself the day before that you will bring lunch from home. It's too expensive and too much trouble to buy.

2. Don't pack lunch the night before and run out of time in the morning. Alternatively, pack lunch and leave it in the fridge. Either option is acceptable since the result is the same.

3. The minute you get into the office, email you lunch buddy, who swore, bli neder, yesterday to finally start bringing lunch from home and find out whether she made good on her promise.

4. Tear up at getting her response. She didn't. Now you don't need to worry about making a minimum for delivery. IF you choose to get it delivered.

5. Start thinking about what it is that you want for lunch around 11. Narrow down your choices: meat or dairy? Make a little list of pros and cons of each, and arrive to conclusion that you want dairy because 1 - meat is too expensive, 2 - food is unimpressive, 3 - your lunch buddy will probably not be in the mood for meat any way, 4 - meat lunch is really, really expensive. Find the list of pros and cons from yesterday and realize that it is exactly the same as today's. And you ALWAYS go with dairy. Promise yourself to never consider meat again.

6. Email your lunch buddy again and casually ask if she gave lunch any thought, knowing perfectly well that she was hard at work on this since 11.

7. Convene at 11.30 for a quick meeting re: what to order for lunch and from where. Be a generous spirit and offer her to make a choice of place. She will try to make you choose, but don't fall for her niceness - it's a trap. For a few minutes try to make each other decide on the place since neither of you wants to be responsible for the disaster that will inevitably come.

8. Once one of you is worn out or tricked into making the decision, choose what you want - salad or something cheesy. Agonize over this decision for another 10-15 minutes, but make up your mind before 12. Whatever unappetizing thing you are getting, you would want to order it before lunch rush or you will get it for dinner.

9. Toy with the idea of actually going out to buy lunch instead of having it delivered.

10. Decide on delivery, just like you did 100 times before. Remind yourself that the added cost of delivery saves you from having to pass by 7 adult DVD stores and 3 strip bars.

11. Finally place an order and feel the weight of decision-making lifted off your shoulders. Take a coffee break because you have exhausted yourself making all these choices.

12. Call the food place back in half hour asking where your order is.

13. Call again in another half hour.

14. Get your order. Carefully examine it. Wonder whether it is your imagination or the salad is actually smaller than the last time. Find beets instead of tomatoes with croutons and grated cheese missing from it. Curse under your breath.

15. Call the place and complain. Graciously accept their apologies and refusal to make you whole or threaten to never do business with them again. Don't worry, no one will take your threat seriously any way; they know that your lunch options are limited.

16. Decide that tomatoes are too important a source of anti-oxidants to forgo and run out in search of a fruit stand. Find that due to bitter cold there are no fruit stands anywhere in sight. Start walking along 8th Ave in hopes of finding a grocery store.

17. Walk three blocks before you find a business, any business, that doesn't sell booze or human flesh, in digital or natural form. Enter the so-called grocery store only to find out that they don't sell tomatoes.

18. Keep walking.

19. Keep walking.

20. In the process of walking ask yourself why you paid extra for delivery since the point of delivery is to avoid walking in the bitter cold.

21. Finally find the store and buy the stupid tomato. Realize that by now you have spent on your lunch more than the average monthly income of an average African family.

22. On the way back to the office consider moving to Africa.

23. Call your significant other and inform that you and him are moving to Africa. Soon. Patiently explain that you are neither drunk nor joking.

24. Learn something new about your genetic makeup from your significant other. Find his findings amateurish and dismiss as a vicious rumor.

25. To preserve peace in the family, decide not to move to Africa. Besides, kosher food is hard to come by there too.

26. Cut the tomato with plastic knife.

27. Eat your salad.

28. Get hungry again in an hour because salad is not very filling.

29. Complain to your lunch buddy about how ridiculous it is to pay so much for bad service and blah food.

30. Swear, bli neder, to bring lunch from home tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby you were born to run

I think I am missing something. I started feeling this ever since I have come into contact with education system for little kids here, and I am just not getting it. Not getting it at all. Both of my children attend/attended the same playgroup run by a very dedicated and I would say somewhat ambitious woman. She is set to make the kids in her playgroup completely ready for school, both emotionally and educationally. I have nothing against that philosophy and appreciate her dedication, but on several occasions our views and goals clashed. Because the most important thing for me in the playgroup – concerns for physical well being aside - is PLAY. Yes, educational element is nice, but we are talking about 2 and 3 year olds here. How much do they NEED to learn in that age?

So the biggest thing over which we clashed was my children’s ability to sit through a class. I got complaints about both of them. First about DD, three and a half at the time, that she couldn’t sit for a long time. DD was able to concentrate, that was not a problem, but she simply couldn’t physically sit as long as was expected of her. That was supposed to be a big problem later when she started school.

Then there was DS, at the time of complaint only a few weeks over two. This one couldn’t sit at all and had trouble concentrating on the material. While I was diplomatic listening about DD’s shortcomings and actually welcomed suggestions (after all, she was starting school in a few months and would have to comply with their expectations), I refused to accept any criticism when it came to DS. I told the woman, “Mrs. X, your concern is greatly appreciated, but as a parent I do not see a problem with a healthy and active 2 year old boy unable to sit for more than 10 minutes.” Her argument was that those were the expectations and all the other kids his age could. I muttered under my breath that those kids’ parents should be concerned, not me (and having experience with both personalities, I can honestly say I wasn’t facetious and, hands down, prefer active over placid), but out loud suggested revisiting this conversation in a few months.

I haven’t heard complaints yet, though I wouldn’t be surprised if DS is still unable to sit through some of the classes. For goodness sake, when I get his weekly learning updates, I have a hard time reading through them in one sitting. And this is coming from a person who has no problem reading through the pages and pages of the proper treatment and presentation of unconditional promises to give on the financial statements of not for profit organizations. WAKE UP! Are you asleep? Well, I am not, but I do fall asleep reading what those 2 and a few month olds are expected to learn and know.

And here’s what I really want to know: is there a value in teaching them alphabet, primary vs. secondary colors, numbers etc this early? I am not suggesting holding a curious and gifted child back, right now I am only addressing those average kids who normally do not have interest or ability to fully comprehend these things this early. Would it make them smarter? Better learners down the road? Improve their memories? Or would it stifle their imagination? Or make normal active children into couch potatoes?

From personal experience, I can say that early exposure does not guarantee lasting success. I was taught addition, subtraction and multiplication tables much earlier than my peers. Despite my early success in math, by the age of 12 all of a sudden I started failing miserably once the geometry was introduced to our curriculum. All the other “smart kids” were getting it, and I wasn’t, despite my teacher’s, friends’ and my own efforts. That’s when my love affair with math ended. However, that initial spark was rekindled when geometry was revisited in American high school, where this subject is introduced much later than in Russia. I seemed to be more ready somehow to get it, and what once before seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, all of a sudden turned into a fun brainteaser. I was in my element again, just later than 50% of my Russian peers.

Maybe my expectations are low, but what I want the most for my children is to be happy and healthy. And have love for learning new things. I wouldn’t mind if on most days their playgroup teacher would just bundle them up, lead them into the backyard and close the door behind until lunchtime. Because pretty soon those little munchkins will go to school and be tied to their desks for hours on end. So why start so early? Now is the time for them to play and be active. And with children’s obesity rates rising every year, could it be that maybe I am onto something and not that wrong?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Orthodox Woman Found Carrying Cold Weapons on the NY Subway

Today we had the multi-cultural Thanksgiving luncheon at work, which was at the danger of being turkey-less. Turns out our CFO rose to the occasion and paid for the turkey out of his own pocket. Thank you! The overachiever in me made two things, not just one, kabatchki and cranberry pie. And no, I did not bring down the oven while baking the pie, imagine that. There's a story with kabatchki, but it still does not involve any sort of sabotage or destructive activities on my part. You see, the recipe starts out as ratatouille and calls for eggplant and zucchini, among other things. Then it offers variations, one of them a Russian-style stewed veggie dish called kabatchki. The most ironic thing is that zucchini, “kabatchki” in Russian, is the first thing that is eliminated in the modified recipe. So it’s really kabatchki without kabatchki.

(Not our turkey, courtesy of Google Images, but close enough to the real one)

Traditionally we order turkey with some other stuff such as sweet potatoes, etc from Mendy's, so that kosher people like myself will have turkey along with the rest of the population. I somehow became the official turkey cutter of our department, and I am not quite sure how it happened. Because at home SubHub would not let me cut anything that was once alive, saying that killing a poor bird or animal twice is simply inhumane.

Well, I think the first time I became a carver, Mendy's either forgot to carve the turkey or didn't cut it thoroughly enough. Citing my vast experience with plastic cutlery, I volunteered to cut the bird with the plastic knife. I do not recommend. The second year I took it upon myself to bring in the real knife, just in case, and have been doing it ever since. So by default - your knife, you carve - I am the official carver. To my great relief Mendy's have been doing an excellent job, so I am mostly serving.

I am usually profusely thanked for my services and many people are kind enough to ask me whether with all the serving I had a chance to grab some food myself. However, even they probably don't realize the danger, into which I put myself every year, to ensure the semi-proper cutting of the bird. See, I have to take subway to work, and I am always petrified that I will be stopped by a police officer on the day of our luncheon and asked to show the contents of my bag, which would inevitably result in him finding my huge knife. If that ever happened, I most likely wouldn't taste turkey that day or maybe even that year. Once I decided just to keep the knife in my desk drawer and not transport it annually, but then I couldn't decide how I would explain the cold weapon among my work files come spring time, when Thanksgiving is that last thing on people's minds. It did occur to me that this finding might bring unexpected benefits, such as people trying their earnest not to upset me, etc. On the other hand, HR might get involved, and I would rather take my chances with the New York finest. So I took the knife home.

With all the dangers, knives, and carving, the party was a good one, as always. So happy it wasn't fouled up by the economic downfall, etc.

At the end of the day... Again, not really ours, but close enough, courtesy of Google images, for those of you expecting some sort of wreckage in my post...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bringing down the house

I had computer training all day today. I was actually looking forward to it because it was something that could make certain boring tasks easier, and that's to easy feat, we are talking accounting here, folks.

So the first half of the day was one class, which went just fine. Then we had another one. It was an intermediary query building class. During the first half hour we went over some theory, and then there was an exercise. That's when our testing environment got really slow and no one could accomplish anything. Everybody's queries were processing, and processing, and processing. Our instructor, a really nice IS guy, started getting nervous. The class was not going the way he had planned at all. We took a short break, and half of the queries were still processing. It was impossible to accomplish anything. IS guy finally called up someone from the system administration team and asked them if they were doing anything behind the scenes. They said yes, but nothing that would cause such a slow down. Finally the instructor decided to abandon any practical exercises, spent 15 minutes going over the theory and dismissed the class two hours early, visibly upset. Around that time my query finally processed resulting in zero results. I couldn't understand why because I had followed all the instructions in building it.

I had my neighbor look into it and lo and behold, I was applying the right criteria to the wrong field. In plain English, I was asking the system to count the number of oranges on the apple tree. Instead of returning the answer, "Dummy, oranges don't grow on apple trees" the system used up all the resources to try to find one darn orange in what seemed to be like every apple tree in the state of New York. As my neighbor and I had discovered this, the instructor received a call from the systems administrator. Later I found out that in this call they had identified why the test environment was so slow: because Student01 was hogging up all the resources with a dumb-*** query.

The instructor was gentleman enough not to share this info with anyone, myself included. But then I confessed to him about my wrongdoing and figured out from his questions that I was the perp who sabotaged his class. I double checked with the systems guy just to make sure no one was pulling my leg. Nope, that was me, all me, who made one student's trip from the Bronx to Manhattan totally worthless, wasted an hour of everyone else's time and made the IS guy's days and days of class prep all in vain.

Made me feel very accomplished and reminded me of an old Ukrainian TV program, which became an idiom "Thy Talents, Ukraine." Something like America's Got Talent.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Naked ambition

Ever notice that kids rarely just walk? If they get an idea or want something, they don't sit and contemplate, they run for it. When they wake up, they must get out of bed ASAP because there are so many things to do and so little time. It's as if they treasure every moment and delaying is not an option. There are times when this drives me nuts (Mommy, I want this, I want this, I want this, NOW!!!!), but mostly I envy that. I am sure I was the same when their age, but somewhere down the line I lost this ability to "Just do it!"

Take today, for example. Even though I knew that getting out of bed just 10-15 minutes earlier would save me lots and lots of frustration later, I still delayed getting up until almost literally dragged out of bed by hubby. (Yes, I am tired, but isn't everyone?) As I got the kids' clothes and finally left the bedroom, I was met by my laughing kidlets, sitting on the couch stark naked and playfully tagging at DD's blanket while waiting for me to bring their stuff. (Let me emphasize that this does NOT, I repeat does NOT usually happen and our kids do NOT routinely parade naked around the house. So hold off on calling children's services, ok?)

At the same time their father walked in and mentioned that someone spilled a bit of water on the floor, which needed to be mopped by the wrongdoers, but right after they put on their underwear. Of course the underwear part was ignored immediately, and they both ran for our new mop.

(Our new mop)

After a brief argument about who is going to hold the mop, they compromised and both ended up holding it and wiping the floor as a team (I was duly impressed with this newly developed diplomacy despite the fog in my under-caffeinated brain.) I got to tell you, this was the cutest thing: two kiddies in their birthday suits mopping the floor and giggling all the while.

Of course this nudist mopping party couldn't last because they had to get dressed for a million of reasons. And I found myself jealous. Goodness, if it were me, I would sit there for some time contemplating when, how or whether to mop at all. And they just got up and did it. Why couldn't I approach at least some of the tasks on my ever-growing to do list just like them? Well, not necessarily while naked, but quickly, efficiently and with a giggle?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mother's wish

Since I have come across a post about giving up seats on a public bus, I decided to post this story. I have done my fare share of whining about rudeness of people on NY subway and how getting a seat while pregnant is not as easy as it should be on my old blog, dedicated mostly to my second pregnancy. However, I never shared this story, and I think it beats all of my previous posts on this topic.

I was blessed with severe morning sickness during one of my pregnancies and on a few occasions had to go to the labor and delivery ER for hydration. During one of those visits, I became quite ill and barely noticed anything around me. When we got to the ER, after a quick glance in my direction,the woman in the registration office waved us to go straight in, asking SubHub to come back at an opportune time and properly register. So we came in and immediately realized that that day was a very busy one for the ER staff. All six seats in the waiting area were taken, and there were several other preggies and their relatives walking around and expecting to be called in. I was lucky enough to get a seat as one woman was taken into the examination room as soon as I walked in, and SubHub left to take care of paper work. Next to me sat a woman in her fifties (I labeled her "mother") with a pregnant "daughter". Neither of them seemed particularly distressed, physically or emotionally, and were chatting away, waiting for their husbands.

A few minutes later a severely pregnant woman came in. There was no seat for her, so she had nothing left to do but to walk around the waiting area. I was a bit peeved that it didn't occur to my neighbor to give up her seat to that patient. But then I thought that I didn't have the full picture, and the middle aged woman might have a bad back or something else preventing her from getting up. At some point an ER nurse came and asked everybody who was not a patient or a "required" help to go wait in another waiting area, right outside of the ER and across from the registration office since space IN the ER was limited and people were blocking the way for gurneys and equipment. Not only the mother didn't leave, she was shortly joined by her husband and son-in-law. They discussed for about 10-15 minutes about who was doing what, and at the end it was decided that the older couple would leave and come back later. I threw a quick glance at a severe preggie who by now was just leaning against the wall right across from me and my neighbors and looking to be in quite a bit of discomfort. I thought to myself, oh great, now she will get a seat.

Not so fast. As the "mother" got up, the "daughter's" hubby promptly occupied her seat and proceeded talking to his wife as if nothing happened. If I weren't borderline fainting, I would have gotten up myself or given the "daughters" husband a piece of my mind. 1) The preggie was standing right across from him 2) I knew that he noticed her 3) For Goodness sake, this was a labor and delivery ER/Admissions, every pregnant woman there was by default either in distress or in labor and WAS TO BE GIVEN PRIORITY IN SEATING. THAT ENTIRE HOSPITAL WING WAS BUILT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN, and those seats weren't for twenty-something year old healthy jerks. Soon afterwards, SubHub came back and I even asked him to intervene and he agreed to. But then both I and the severe preggie were called in, so that was the end of this story.

It happened some time ago, but remembering this episode inevitably makes my blood boil. What is wrong with people? One of my most sincerest wishes and prayers is that I raise my children well enough so that nothing like this would be ever said about them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Penny wise

It seems that the economy is going down and down and down. The bigwigs in our company decided that they need to show swift action, and for the last two week we keep on hearing about cutting the costs, tightening budgets and other pleasant things of that sort. I would not be surprised if our bonuses this year were canceled and raises were significantly cut (from the standard whopping 3%). I know, I know, in this economy one should be happy to even have a job, but with the cost of living going up significantly, even a 3% raise seems like a joke, so if it gets cut... To add to it the consulting firm that is currently looking into every aspect of our org. to see were costs could be cut and "efficiency" added, and it's no wonder that many people feel on edge. (The consultants are getting paid several hundred thousand dollars in the meantime - maybe we could start by cutting THAT expense?)

Then this week there was a rumor that our fancy Holiday Party was canceled, and the memo went out to the heads of the departments that 1) budget for Holiday party was to be cut by more than half, 2) no inter-departmental invites to avoid people attending more than one party, 3) when offenring alternatives to fancy restaurants, words like "bowling" and "pizza" were mentioned. Ok, so that is hardly a surprise, but going from Tavern on the Green with free drinks to a pizzeria is a bit too much, so some people felt the party should be canceled altogether. But I think it's being saved by tireless efforts of one or two people in the department, and thankfully it will not have pizza on the menu.

Then came another blow today. We have a long standing tradition in our department to make a multi cultural lunch before Thanksgiving, where everyone brings their own national dish and the company provides the turkey. For many people this lunch means a lot more than any Holiday Party because it is actually a lot of fun and completely unofficial. Guess where another cut is made? In buying a turkey. That makes absolutely no sense to me and to many people. The benefit is tiny, but the blow to people's morale is going to be huge because if the company is cutting a $100 turkey from the budget, imagine what will be cut next...

As my son would have put it, "Bye bye birdie!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This is not funny, but it is!

You know what I haven't posted in a long time? My kids’ antics. So here's a post dedicated to DS. After a long relative silence, a few months ago DS started happily talking and commenting, and now we can understand almost everything he says. And that kid is funny, but I am most definitely prejudiced! Here are a few episodes of what we are being treated to on an almost daily basis. Let me warn you that not everything here is 100% tasteful, but he's my kid and that's my blog.

After having his first (and for now last) successful attempt of doing number 2 in the toilet, DS insisted on flushing himself. No surprises here, the kid could be entertained almost indefinitely by toilet flushing. This time, however, he decided to add a personal touch and said, "Bye bye, kaki." And then flushed, twice of course.

DS also says bye bye to birds in the park, to dogs on the street, to choo choo trains passing by and to anything else that catches his attention.

DS had to accompany his maniacally coughing sister to the doctor. The doctor decided to use this opportunity to catch up on DS' shots while he was there because who knows how long it would take us to reappear in her office. This was a huge blow to DS who fully expected his sis to cry and suffer, but not himself. While in the car, he complained to me a few hours later (I didn't go with them, SubHub did), "Doctor made DS boo boo. Doctor gave DS shots. It hoits (hurts). Mommy, doctor puniss' (punish)? Yeah, Mommy, doctor time out!" (If I ever had the chutzpah to suggest punishing my doctor or any other adult, my mom would definitely fall off her chair. Different times, different children...)

My Dad pretended to steal DS's nose. DS's reaction? "This is not funny!" Good thing he can’t read yet because apparently he has the necessary vocabulary to give my blog a meaningful review.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A bunch of updates in lieu of real post.

All of your looking for a good post-election laugh and - sigh - not finding it here, head over to Derfwad Manor for a rerun of Bigger Love and its sequel, Bigger Love, Episode 41. You are guaranteed a good non-partisan laugh with nice visuals.

Saw Get Smart yesterday. It was really funny. Haven't laughed so hard watching a movie in a long time. If you've been traumatized by Steve Carrell's previous movies, this one is really different, spoken by someone who turned 40-year Old Virgin off only after five minutes or so.

Read some comments in my Dear Doc post and realized that some people thought I might be talking about one particular doctor. I might be strange, but I am not a masochist. If any doctor inflicted this much crap bad doctoring and bedside manner on me, I would've dropped him like a hot potato long time ago. Rather, these are some fond memories and things that have happened over the years in my dealings with doctors, some of whom were forgiven or put on probation, while others have been mercilessly dumped. I actually remembered a few more episodes worthy of posting, so maybe I'll write a sequel.

Hate, absolutely hate all these time changes. Even though we supposedly gained an hour of sleep, I have been walking around yawning all week long, and found my friends, family and colleagues doing the same. Maybe, this time switch is sponsored by Starbucks? I fully expect to feel this way for at least another week. Hence, even though I have three viable ideas for posts, I am writing this. Waiting for my brain to unmush... Might take a while... Please stay tuned...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This isn't over

I have been waiting for November 5. I was tired of all the political talk and desperately wanted it to be over. So today, two days after the elections, I was lulled into the false sense of security by my own desire to move on. So I came out and admitted to a couple of co-workers that I voted for McCain. After all, the guy didn't win, no hard feelings, right? To my surprise, one of the co-workers, a young guy, also admitted to voting for McCain. So I jokingly said to him that the third member of this conversation, a huge Obama supporter, will now hate us. She said, "No. I don't hate you. I just think you were brain washed."

In all honesty, I would have preferred if she said she hated me, or that my decision or reasoning was stupid or faulty. Pretty much anything would be less insulting to me than what she had actually said. Because what she said precludes any kind of meaningful discussion and reduces it to trying to prove that "No, I am not a drone but actually a thinking individual who happens to disagree with you". Because what she said, even though it might not have been meant that way, implies that her reasoning powers are superior to mine or to put it bluntly that I am naive and dumb. Because it was so patronizing and dismissing, after all why would anyone give value to my opinion if it's not even mine, but the guys' who brainwashed me?

There are reasons why I avoid talking politics at work. I reminded myself what those were, that I should stick to that policy ALL the time and went back to my cube without saying anything else. If I could say something to her, I would ask her when and how exactly I got brainwashed because only 8 years ago I was accused by my conservative friend of being brainwashed for refusing to vote for Bush. (As I mentioned, I tend to be in the middle, so I get it from both sides. Actually, I couldn't even vote in those elections b/c I wasn't a citizen yet.) So between now and then those conservatives did a very good job, I guess. Only I am not a conservative. And I don't read newspapers or watch TV. I don't go to rallies (like she does) and generally avoid political talk. So exactly how did this brainwashing happen?

Whatever. I am moving on. I think the country is starting to move on too, just not as fast as I would have liked it. My evidence? The story on cnn.com about Obamas' choice of family dog. Who needs to discuss issues when Obama girls are a getting a new puppy? I think we will be back to normal programming very, very soon. Paris Hilton, where are you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being sick of the system

I have written and rewritten this post several times. This is the topic that has been on my mind for a very long time, and sometimes overabundance of feelings on the subject makes it harder to express them. Do I go with pure numbers and logic? Do I bring in personal experiences? Do I just say how I feel on the subject? Or all of the above? And at some point, one needs to rid herself of the post, no matter how badly it's written. So here it comes, just in time for elections, very imperfect, but all mine.

I don't like talking about politics,especially during the presidential elections year. Political talk rarely makes you friends, but very often causes rifts and sour feelings. And most of the time this talk is pointless. I haven't been able to persuade anyone with the opposite view in their wrongness. Most people are very stubborn in their views and wouldn't change them even when presented with all the facts and logic in the world. The most you can do is to plant the seed of doubt in their minds, and even for that you have to be a very persuasive speaker and the person you are talking to has to possess enough integrity to admit that he might have been wrong. And even when everyone agrees on all the issues, political talk rarely makes for a pleasant conversation. So these are the main reasons for my refusal to talk about politics - futility of discussions and desire not to alienate people. Often my attitude is mistaken for not caring about issues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, I rarely get overly excited and lather up at the mouth because of politics (though I did that a lot in my very early youth), but I deeply care about many problems our country is facing. And political process, in which I am very disappointed, is just one of those problems.

That being said, one of the main problems that boggles my mind is this country's health care system. That actually is one of the few topics that invariably raises my blood pressure when mentioned or discussed. The more I discover, the more appalled I get. It is unthinkable to me that the country this great and wealthy cannot guarantee its citizens some basic medical coverage. The laws instituted today are moving into somewhat of a more humane direction, but are still very far from anything I would find acceptable. And the fact that most medical coverage is provided by employers is making some of the issues even worse (there are advantages to this also). With the rising costs, many employers opt out of offering health insurance to their employees or offer cheaper plans with higher deductibles and co-pays. What I find even scarier is that in this system one risks losing health coverage when one needs it the most: when losing a job, getting seriously sick or during life changing events, such as birth of a child, divorce or death of the spouse through whom one gets insurance. When an employee is no longer able to work, his employer feels no obligation to provide coverage. But what about Cobra? Yes, this wonderful COBRA, which of course was the step in the right direction since it is still better than losing insurance altogether, costs oodles of money during the time when one is either receiving no paycheck or only a fraction of it (because again, employers are not obligated to provide paid sick days, maternity leaves or even keep sick employees in their employment if they can't perform their duties due to sickness. And those disability and unemployment checks are often not enough to cover the rent, let alone anything else.) The number of people forced to declare bankruptcy due to their inability to pay medical bills is simply astonishing. And those are not only irresponsible punks thinking that they are immune to accidents and diseases. Very often these are people with serious illnesses well in their forties and fifties who for various reasons lost their insurance or didn't have proper coverage for a life-saving procedure.

Ok, I guess enough griping. I don't want to make this too long. If you would ask me for suggestions, I don't have any. I certainly wouldn't recommend destroying the system that works only half the time in favor of no system at all. And I also don't think that putting all the blame or the burden on the employers is fair. That could result in more trouble than it's worth. One thing I am sure about is that there must be a solution. Not everyone will be happy because it is impossible to make everyone happy, but all those experts can and should find a solution acceptable to the majority of Americans. After all, many civilized countries somehow achieved it, why can't we?

And before you read this as an endorsement of Obama's candidacy, let me put you at ease or disappoint you. It isn't. I have read his plan for health care reform, and I had read McCain's suggestions on the matter. Neither candidate, in my opinion, provides a solution. McCain's plan provides a patch for a deteriorating system, but I am not persuaded that it would help for much and for long. Obama's plan, on the other hand, is close to non-existent. It sounds more like a slogan to me, very, very vague, without any specifics. And again, the burden is shifted to the employers. Oh, but he believes in the universal health coverage. Well, so do I, but it doesn't seem to help anyone. Give me the details!

That's it. Please vote! It's important that you do regardless of how you vote!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To trust or not to trust...again...

While I was sleeping…

Guess who left me a comment last night at 1.45 am? OMG, OMG, OMG!!! It was Mrs. G of the Derfwad Manor! I am never going to sleep again! Ok, maybe an occasional catnap. First, Suburban Correspondent, and now Mrs. G! I am becoming famous! If you have never visited that Manor, I highly recommend. A warning to my conservative friends: Mrs. G is unapologetically liberal, but she rarely talks about politics and is very, very funny! I particularly like her Secret Boyfriend entries.

But Mrs. G’s last night’s entry was of a different kind; it was a trip down the memory lane, about a friend’s betrayal. It brought me to thinking about my own experience with this subject. Unlike Mrs. G, no friend of mine ever stole my boyfriend; mine was betrayal of a different kind. Did it leave me less trusting? I would like to believe no. But this and other betrayals in life made me think about what was better: to trust less and have less fulfilling friendships or have real friends, but run the risk of another heartbreak?

So here’s the story of my first betrayal. Luda (let’s call her that) and I were 12 years old at the time. We became best friends pretty much the first day she came to my pre-K and were almost inseparable for 6 years. We shared all our secrets, mischief, dreams and crushes. I saved my treats to share with her the next day in school. We even discussed our kids playing together in the very distant future because we were supposed to be friends forever. Then one day we had a fight, one of many stupid meaningless fights girls of that age have. It was so insignificant, that I quickly forgot what we fought about and was sure that in no time we would be friends again.

But I was wrong. I don’t think I have ever spoken to her again, even though we were in the same class and physically in the same room for several hours each day. Maybe I did say a few things like “excuse me” and asked to return the money and the book that she borrowed, but it is also possible that I didn’t. Because the next day after the fight she passed me a note during a class, which said, “I told Maya (also not real name) everything.” I remember the note and the cold feeling in my stomach. Maya was the girl who was not particularly nice to me for some unknown reason. We never openly fought, but every now and then she would make snide remarks about or to me without any provocation on my part. I could never find what to say back to her because she was so pretty, so well dressed, so neat and organized - so much better than me… So I took my revenge once and only once by saying trash about her to my then best friend. I just didn’t know how else to express my frustration and regretted what I said almost immediately. What I said was supposed to stay between my friend, my true friend and I and be quickly forgotten like many stupid things we told each other.

And now all the dumb things I said in confidence were repeated to Maya. For no reason other than to hurt me, to win the fight. This was my first true betrayal. Before long, Maya’s mother got involved and fortunately didn’t blow things out of proportion. We had a short, but very unpleasant conversation, at the end of which this woman said, “Maybe you should pick your friends better.” If I remember correctly, I replied that I already knew that. I just hope I was polite saying that because looking back, this woman really couldn’t have handled the situation better.

But this was not the end of my woes. I refused to acknowledge Luda or have any dealings with her. I think she did not expect that. One night my father got a phone call from Luda’s mother, and in a 30-minute conversation got an earful about all the mischief I got into in the prior two years. (And before your imagination runs wild, my misdeeds were very timid, prank calling and smoking my first cigarette were among the more serious ones. But I am sure hearing about them, especially from another “concerned” parent and especially all at once was not particularly pleasant.) Needless to say, I experienced one of the worst nights of my teenage life. At the end of the very long conversation with my parents, I found out that they never particularly liked Luda, but never told me that. With all his outrage at my antics, I saw that Dad felt bad for me. He knew that I was betrayed. He knew that friends shouldn’t do what Luda did.

I think this whole episode happened in early spring. I quickly made friends with another girl in my class. Two days after classes resumed in the fall, Luda transferred to another school. I never saw her again. But some time in the winter I received a letter from her, saying that she was truly sorry for what happened. She never made any friends in her new school and regretted losing the only true friendship she had. She wanted us to be friends again, friends in the true meaning of that word. I quickly wrote a very long reply, where I recounted all the wrongs she had done to me, all the things I had to overlook during our 6 years of friendship, told her I couldn’t forgive her and the only reason for her very late apology was her loneliness. Had she made new friends, she wouldn’t be apologizing to me. I am proud to say I never mailed that response. I waited several months before writing another one. I simply didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to kick someone on the low, but I didn’t have anything to offer either. Then finally my new best friend shamed me about not responding, and I finally wrote another letter. It was much shorter, kinder, but still with the tact and straightforwardness of a young teen. I basically said that all was forgiven, but my trust was broken, and it would take a lot to become friends again. I wished Luda luck and expressed hope that she would find friends in her new school. She never replied. A few years later I heard a rumor that Luda’s family moved to Germany, but no one knew when and to where.

Many years have passed. I would occasionally remember about Luda and try to find her on Classmates.com, through Google or by other means. Then I think about what I would do if I actually found her, what I would say, come up with nothing worthy and abandon the search only to pick it up a few months later. I hope she is well and happy, and I guess I just want proof.

As for myself, I have answered the question of whether or not to trust someone again long time ago. The girl, who became my best friend shortly after our falling out with Luda, turned out to be one of the most trustworthy people I know. Our friendship was much deeper and healthier than my previous one. (And my parents approved. I think.) We still shared all our secrets and crushes; but we also shared ideas, discussed ideals, the meaning of life and love and pretty much everything we could think of for hours. We were still young and silly girls and had stupid fights, but we always made up. And we are still friends to this day, really, really good friends, best friends forever. Despite the distance, the time, the different religions, the not seeing each other for years and busy lives. And despite me losing her phone number every time I find it (thank G-d for email).

As I got older, I don’t necessarily think that sharing every single thought and feeling is necessary or even desirable. But I do know that if I need to share, there is a person across the ocean who would listen, understand and keep it to herself. That kind of friendship would have never happened had I clammed up and refused to trust anyone again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lowered Expectations

Dear Doc,

We need to talk. We have known each other for a while now. And even though we are still together, I feel that our relationship is taking a turn for the worse. Your constant lateness to our meetings and unclear excuses are deteriorating my trust, your insensitive remarks make me wonder if you even care about me, and your not returning my calls and inattentiveness are just ... are you seeing someone else? Why am I even asking? I KNOW you are seeing someone else; I have seen them in the waiting room, and yes, I know there's more than one. We never discussed being exclusive; heck, I don't even want us to be exclusive. So yeah, keep seeing other people, but when you are with me, could you please give me your at least half full and undivided? Please excuse this emotional detour, I realize that I must stay focused and away from hysterics and accusations.

I know you don't like talking about our relationship, but I really want us to stay together, if not for love and loyalty, then at least for mutual benefit and convenience. It’s time for you to realize that I do have needs, and if they are constantly not met, one day I might just walk out for good.

So to be fair to you and out of respect for the good times we shared, I have compiled the list of my expectations, the do's and the don’ts that might seem trivial to you, but are important to me. Before you complain that the list is too long or I am too demanding, let me tell you that like in any other relationship, my expectations have been significantly lowered since the time I picked up the phone to arrange our first meeting because a mutual acquaintance thought we might be right for each other... You probably don't even remember that first meeting; heck, I would be surprised if you remembered my name. How low have I sunk ... but I digress. Let's examine the document at hand, shall we? By the way, feel free to share this list with your friends; after all, there's a good chance I will start seeing them one day...

1. I don't expect you to gently hold my hand and whisper in soothing voice that my sneezing will not cause permanent brain damage and that awful pimple on my forehead will not leave a gaping hole. However, if I suffer from excessive morning sickness severe enough to medicate me for months, I do expect you to address the short and long term effects on my and my baby's health. (Why do you always wait for me to bring stuff up? This baby is your responsibility too, you know… )

2. I don't expect you to cry with me over blood spilled during routine testing, but I do think that if an ER consult shows me more empathy than you, something is amiss in our relationship. (Do you think he was trying to pick me up?)

3. I don't expect flowers upon my arrival at your office, but I do expect, with some rare exceptions, to be seen within half hour of our scheduled appointment. (I am sure all those other hussies in the waiting room agree. Just ask them...)

4. At this point of our relationship I do not expect a leisurely afternoon lunch or candle lit dinner, but if you are billing my insurance for a 15 minute quickie visit, I fully expect you to spend at least ten of those minutes with me (waiting time NOT included). I do not expect you to rush me through the examination or Q&A part of our visit. I do not expect you to rush me at all. Maybe your other patients don't mind this, but I am just not that kind of girl.

5. I don't expect to be treated with contempt simply because I am not familiar with some medical lingo (or for any other reason, really). I do expect the questions and answers to be clear to a person without intimate knowledge of medicine. And I expect them to be addressed verbatim, not by giving me out a badly photocopied handout.

6. I don't expect you to have genuine interest in me or my medical history, but I do expect you to fake it. Even a halfhearted attempt would do.

7. Like I've mentioned before, I don't expect to be your one and only, but I don't expect you to forget about me while I am in the emergency room either. It is simply humiliating to shoo away residents for hours telling them that this patient is taken and you will be here any minute. (I know they snickered behind my back telling each other jokes about my imaginary private practitioner.) However, if it does happen again, I expect an apology. Blaming ER nurses is just not cool. Or professional.

8. I don't expect you to love night shifts, but I also don't expect you to share that with me. I do expect you to remember that I like being in the hospital in the middle of the night just as much as you. So next time, let’s just make the best of it, okay?

9. I don't expect you to have all the answers and quick fixes. But I do expect you to share the answers that you do have with me. Don't let me make important discoveries, such as a likely hearing loss that you knew about, from mayoclinic.com. Be a man and say it to my face.

10. I don't expect you to have G-d complex, but I do expect you to remember that I am human, not just a medical case. I have family, friends, job and life outside of your office. So don't just give me my diagnosis and send me home. Talk to me about lifestyle changes, coping techniques and preventive measures. Talk to me! Don’t just stare in my chart when I am trying to have a conversation!

Sincerely and still yours though not sure for how long, after all we ARE seeing other people ,

Subjugated Patient.

P.S. While rereading this and reliving all the pain, humiliation and contempt in our relationship, I am beginning to understand why some people just give up on traditional doctors and turn to alternative medicine. These traditional doctor-patient relationships are so hard to maintain, one begins to wonder if going over to the other side is worth investigating.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Be still my room

Well, Be Still My Bedroom would've been a more accurate title because that's where I spend the better half of last week, but then I could've been accused of false advertising techniques and undelivered promises of racy posts. And there's nothing racy about this post, so... I think I am already blabbing uncontrollably...

So what am I trying to say? I got vertigo again. On Yom Kippur, after particularly easy time fasting. So now I have good news and bad news. Good news is that I do not have Meniere's, as originally suggested by my ENT, but BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo). That means that I am not going to prematurely lose my hearing. That also means that I do not have to spell it to medical personnel in hospitals any more (I was once chided by a PA during an emergency room visit for misspelling Meniere's. All those ER doc's couldn't spell it either, and thus couldn't find it in their database and put it in my chart. Basically, her point was that their having advanced medical degrees doesn't absolve me of my responsibility to know how to spell my own diseases. It's your disease, you should own it.) Bad news? It changes little in my day to day life. I might still get dizzy out of the blue, and my life would have to be put on hold until this vertigo resolves itself. There are other measures, but all of it gets complicated due to time sensitivity of the treatments and rehab centers not returning calls promptly...

And I have a problem with the name of my new found malady. If that is "benign" then I don't know what malignant is. I was completely out of commission for three full days, had to walk with assistance for another one, couldn't keep anything down for 96 hours, water included, and only fully regained my balance 7 days after the whole thing started. Up until then, I couldn't walk in a straight line even if someone paid me. Heck, I would pay someone to make me do it!

The whole thing also brought me to thinking about switching to another ENT or neurologist. Even though this one came highly recommended with fancy titles to his names, he somehow misdiagnosed me two years ago. Not because he was lacking in knowledge; I think we are simply not communicating properly. Half the time I simply didn't understand his questions fully knowing the meaning of every single word in them. As it is, my case turned out to be quite simple, so I don't need a fancy specialist. But as a human being I require someone more, well, human. Because a fancy degree in medicine not only doesn't guarantee the knowledge of disease spelling, it doesn't require its bearer to have empathy and compassion towards his patients.