trying to connect

Three Yellow Ribbons Round Tree Illustration

illustration tree with yellow ribbons
What! She’s making yet another tree illustration! Again? What this time …

Here’s the back story … Tony Orlando, who popularized the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, visited Israel. He was encouraged to do something in support of families of the three kidnapped teens. He visited the families, and he asked the people of America to tie three yellow ribbons in support of the teens.

A friend in our area has started a little campaign selling yellow ribbons, with the money going back to Israel to support the families and soldiers searching for the teens. I confess I still haven’t gotten the ribbons, but I did write this post.

So what is the history of the yellow ribbon? There is a great article by Gerald E. Parsons on How the Yellow Ribbon Became a National Folk Symbol. It seems the yellow ribbons started getting used as a symbol in the early 1980’s in support of the hostages in Iran. Parsons writes: “Ultimately, the thing that makes the yellow ribbon a genuinely traditional symbol is neither its age nor its putative association with the American Civil War, but rather its capacity to take on new meanings, to fit new needs and, in a word, to evolve.”

On a related topic, the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurBoys was inspired by #BringBackOurGirls. There are actually, unfortunately, similarities between those kidnappings.

The names of the boys are Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel. Hashtag: #EyalGiladNaftali
The boys are close in age to my own teenage sons.

three yellow ribbons on tree
Three yellow ribbons spotted on a tree in Highland Park, New Jersey

On Blogging Breaks and Old Writing Desk

writing desk

This writing desk used to belong to my mother z”l. My husband expressed some satisfaction when I he saw me use it one day as an actual desk. I was using it to address a few bat-mitzvah invitations. Which brings me to my next topic: blogging breaks. It seems that Purim stretched into pre-Pesach cleaning which then became Pesach and then a few busy work deadlines. Without strong intention I took a bit of a blogging break. I suppose ideally one should say, hello, I am taking a blogging break, but usually life is too busy for that sort of thing. Until after the bat-mitzvah I should just not plan on blogging very much. When it gets really hot in July, then I can get into the blogging swing again (I hate the heat and prefer air conditioning).

About the desk: my mother used to use it to write letters and organize recipes. I wish I had her collection of recipes – I assume it got thrown out at some point. The desk is quite fragile and is falling apart in pieces. I told the movers (we moved it from my father’s apartment after he died) that this was the last time the desk was moving (they didn’t want me to blame them for the broken pieces, and I don’t). But if my daughter gets attached to it, maybe it will move again. Who knows.

I was planning to write a post called Burning Bread and other Pesach Adventures. I have a great photo to go with that post. I’ll keep it in mind – maybe someday it will show up. My daughter was the Genie in a recent Highland Park Recreation production of Aladdin – if I had the energy, time and ideas, I might have posted about that. She was hilarious. Catch the next show on July 4th in Donaldson Park – no idea what that production will be.

I wish I were back doing watercolors – but too much else to do right now. Maybe in the summer? We’ve been having a gorgeous spring – it is quite therapeutic to go for a walk.

I highly recommend the book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi. I would write a review, but I returned the book to my brother-in-law. I will just say this: it’s hard enough to write a biography of one person. Yossi Klein Halevi portrays quite a few varied people in this easy-to-read and engaging book.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

Over to You, Dear Reader

How do you handle needed blogging breaks? Is there anything in particular you might say to your audience? Have you ever gotten attached to an old piece of furniture?

Fashion and Modesty

My daughter is taking an art class in fashion. So she was excited when I volunteered to share some of her drawings in a post:

fashion drawing

A few questions came up regarding the class. It seems that her art teacher used words to which she was unaccustomed to talk about the human body (the main word in question is b-*-*-b-s). It sounds like her teacher even pointed to that part of the human body while using this language. To give a little background, my daughter and her friends attend a modern Orthodox Jewish day school. So they are unaccustomed to hearing such language in the classroom. One friend felt it was OK to talk that way; another said it would be OK for a science teacher to talk about those parts of the body. I pointed out that sometimes the science teacher talks about the science or anatomy but doesn’t bring up the feelings that the words might elicit.

In addition, my daughter told me she was careful to draw dresses that are what is called tznuah – modest. My daughter wears short-sleeved shirts, as I do, but not sleeveless. We also wear skirts that reach close to our knees. In school, she has to wear quarter-sleeves or longer and skirts below the knee or longer. She sometimes wears pants, but she is not allowed to do so in school. As opposed to feeling trapped by these rules, as some girls do, I think they make her feel safe. The one drawing on this post that is sleeveless she explained to me is a bathing suit. In her most recent dance school she was required to wear a dress that had hardly any top at all, so it made her feel naked. She was very unhappy about that outfit.

fashon models drawing

A Discussion on Fashion and Modesty

With the view that people have different cultural norms, and certainly anyone reading this post may have a different viewpoint, upbringing and outlook from my daughter, myself, her art teacher or her science teacher, I have a few questions for you.

  • Have you ever given much thought to how you dress?
  • Would you be comfortable with the use of the word b-*-*-b-s in the classroom?

Feel free to discuss in the comments anything I have mentioned. The point is to understand someone else’s point of view.

Tell Us Your Favorite Fashion Design

On a lighter note, you could comment on your favorite outfit on this post.

fashion models drawing

What Artists and Writers Share in Common

I have been reading a lot of writers’ websites. I’ve noticed as they make their lists, I often say, yes, artists think that way as well. For example, A. K. Andrews asks, Can Your Computer Drain Your Creativity? One could certainly make this argument for writers or visual artists. In this post, I’ll explore what artists and writers share in common.

sleeping child

Here is my list:

  • If you don’t write, you won’t have good or bad writing. So write. If you don’t draw, you won’t have a good or bad drawing. So draw.
  • Creativity drives the work of both artist and writer. Artist’s block or writer’s block can hamper that creativity.
  • Artists and writers can both make use of blogs as platforms to show their work.
  • Inspirational exercises can stimulate both artists and writers.
  • A blog can be used as a platform to teach art or writing. An artist or a writer can thus demonstrate their skills.
  • Artists think in images. Writers think in words. Both tend to hyperfocus when at work.
  • An interviewer asked Hemingway, why did you rework the ending so many times? What was it that stumped you? He replied, “Getting the words right.” An artist in a similar fashion can rework a painting many times, especially one or two details.

What do you think – what do artists and writers share in common? How are they different?

Note on the drawing: I found the drawing of a young girl in a sketchbook – it must be from almost ten years ago, when my daughter was a toddler.

Jazz Girl Asks You

jazz girl
Jazz girl (namely my daughter) wants you to help with this post. As I wanted to write a post but I wasn’t sure what to say, I decided to ask questions. Pick any or all and answer in the comments.

  1. Are you reading or have you read any good books? Care to share?
    I’m reading The River Midnight by Lilian Nattel; I found it buried in a stack of books at the Highland Park Public Library book sale on Sunday. It’s a novel about women in a shtetl in Poland: one in particular who has not been able to have children and her friend and neighbor who has many, more than she can handle.
  2. When you think of a photo from any blog other than your own, which photo first comes to mind?
    I had in mind one post of an old house by EG Wow, but somehow I landed on this house by Lake Ontario.
  3. Can you name any recipe from a blog other than your own that influenced your cooking or baking?
    It would have to be Batya’s cake recipe (from 2005!) – she no longer talks about cake. Last year she talked a lot about diets, and this year she has been posting about simple cooking.
  4. If you are a lurker (someone who reads this blog but rarely or never comments), will you delurk and say hello?

By the way, my daughter danced with a different teacher tonight, and it went well. So we probably have a new dance studio for her for September. And if you haven’t yet visited my free postcard giveaway post, you still have a few days left to join just by leaving a comment on that post.

Shamash, Nibbles and On the Blog

chanuka shamash
Chanuka is over, until next year, but I still have photos to share! This one is of the shamash; my husband and my three children are all holding their own as they say the bracha (blessing) before lighting the candles. The shamash is the helper and does not count as one of the 8 lights of Chanuka.

Yesterday I went to a lovely party. Some child had taken a whole plate of fancy chocolate candies and had nibbled exactly one bite out of each one. My friend the hostess was not amused. She considered putting up a sign: for adults only. I said maybe the parent should eat the candy if the child wants to try. Of course, then my daughter took one bite of a chocolate covered marshmallow candy without realizing it was marshmallow, and I had no interest in eating it. What do you think?

I loved this: do you hear in your house – “Are you going to put that on the blog?

Seeking Comfort

How do you find comfort? What do you do when something or someone in your life, community or in world news causes you pain? How do you get in touch with the pain and also find new ways of self-comfort?

When my children were babies, I remember learning that it was important that they learn to self-comfort. If every time a child cries, a parent or guardian rushes to the child’s side, how will the child learn to cope on his or her own? My boys, I remember, each had a blanket that was precious in the going to sleep process.

One of my friends, when times are hard, reads from the Book of Psalms (Tehilim) when she is in distress. I feel she is fortunate that she can find comfort in that manner.

Today is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the fast day of Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av, the day when the Beit HaMikdash, the holy temple that was in Jerusalem, was destroyed. Other tragic events happened on this date as well. In two days we read the haftorah from the Book of Isaiah, in which he proclaims (Isaiah 40:1-2) –

Comfort, comfort my people, so says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

“Double from sins”? – Is this referring to then or now? It seems the pain continues to this day; the warfare does not seem at an end.

And later Isaiah says (Isaiah 40:7-8) –

Indeed man is but grass: Grass withers, flowers fade – but the Word of our God is always fulfilled!

We can read all of Isaiah (especially the part from Chapter 40 and on), and some of us may find some comfort in the words. For many of us, struggling to understand the words of the ancient prophet is as far as we can get. Perhaps we are meant to know that even if we don’t understand the Big Picture, God does.

So getting back to comfort, here’s a short list from me, perhaps I can get your creative juices running, too:

  • Write a blog post.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Paint. Draw. Putter in the garden. Find a creative outlet.

More on comfort and Isaiah:
Comfort, Comfort (2005) by Professor Gary A. Rendsburg, chair of the department that I do work for at Rutgers, the Jewish Studies Department

More on Tisha B’Av:
Baila explains how it is hard to be a Jew, even if she is finally living in a Jewish homeland.

On the upcoming parsha (Torah portion of the week):
Ilana-Davita looks for a response to current troubles by studying Parshat Va-Etchanan.

Responding to Raizy

Isaiah 1:23 –

Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves. Everyone loves bribes, and follows after rewards. They don’t judge the orphan, neither does the cause of the widow come to them.

SuperRaizy wrote a post called Too Nauseated to Blog on Friday (lots of bad news in the Jewish community). I didn’t really know what to say to Raizy or about Raizy’s post, but Isaiah, the prophet of over 2000 years ago, says it well. I’m hoping to write a post called “Seeking Comfort” later this week. More words of wisdom from Isaiah.

On a related or not so related note, Jientje alerted me to a Positive Day in the Blogosphere. Did the creator of this have any idea that this is the day after Tisha B’Av, the most mourning-full day of the Jewish calendar and right before Shabbat Nahamu, the Sabbath of Comfort? Just a coincidence, I am sure.
Sometimes I think it must be easier to be non-Jewish (Jientje is not, and she is always so upbeat). But maybe we just have to be “Happy with our lot.”

Anyway, to Raizy, you wrote well in your post. May with the wisdom of Isaiah we find a way to move forward.

Update: if you are interested in discussing the details of the current New Jersey/New York scandal and Dwek, Rafi has a post: Dweck Entrapped Them? (Note: it seems that his name is spelled “Dwek,” and Rafi misspelled it in his post).

Loss of a Parent

Note: this is the first of in series of those who take my link challenge. I was going to do a more light-hearted post for the first one, but I got news that my friend Rick Black’s father died on Sunday. So this one is for G6 and Rick Black.

Remembering a father when a grandchild is born

G6 writes eloquently about how she felt when she lost her father:

I remember vividly walking home from the hospital in utter desolation after his petirah, feeling like my world was so very dark, that I would never learn another thing ever again — how would I smile and laugh again?
How I wish somebody could have come up to me at that very moment and taken me by my shoulders, looked in to my eyes and said….. “SEVEN YEARS FROM THIS VERY DAY you will be sitting at your Shabbos table, surrounded by your entire family, which will include a new son in law, a new daughter in law and you will be cradling your brand new granddaughter in your arms on her very first Shabbos, as everyone at the table sings zemiros and learns in your father’s memory. Your granddaughter will be given her Jewish name on this very day seven years from now.

Please leave comments for her on her post. So beautiful how she savors her father’s memory and connects it to her current family joy.

*petirah = death

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An interview of a son with his father

Rick Black interviewed his father over the past two years. An excerpt from those interviews is on the Jewish Writing Project blog, spoken in his father’s voice:

I was bar mitzvahed in a very small shul – the one on Lake Street. We didn’t make much of it. It was just a small bar mitzvah for our family. I davaned Saturday morning for the service, Shacharis and Musaf, and when they took the Torah out of the ark, I had to sing the “Shema” and my voice broke, and a kid from Hebrew school said, “You alright?”

Another piece of the interview, where Rick’s father befriends Max the Russian:

So, this fella’s name was Max Bregoff and I met him. He was a tough Russian. I introduced him to a lot of my friends who were members of the club and we made him a member of the club, too. We called him the mad Russian. He used to get very angry. He’d spit at them. He was a tough hombre but he found the American way and he was able to live a good life and enjoy himself. He spent a lot of time at the Jewish Center. Yes, he did find the American way and he became a friend.

Read Growing Up Jewish, an interview of David Black by his son Rick Black.

Rick, may you be comforted among the mourners of Israel; may we all know simchas (happy occasions) like the one G6 describes, of a happy, healthy family singing and enjoying together.

Additional Note: I spoke to a friend (not Jewish) here in Highland Park who asked questions about making a shiva call. Topic for another time, explaining a shiva call – do’s and don’ts, the halachot (laws) and the customs. If anyone has suggestions for explaining a shiva call, please feel free to comment. I told my friend that the mourner is supposed to do the talking; the mourner should take the lead in the topic of conversation.

A Riddle in Prose

Inspired by Mottel’s riddles, I decided to write one of my own, but in prose. (Here’s Mottel’s latest poetic quiz).

Someone is coming to visit me today. Someone I once interviewed for this blog. The name is in my Twitter stream.

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In other news, the jury duty I mentioned in my Twitter stream got called off. I called last night, and my number was higher than the ones that had to show up. I felt like I had won the lottery. I could write a whole post on jury duty, but I don’t think I want to commit some of ideas to writing. I feel un-American if I say I don’t like the idea of a jury. Really, it’s that I don’t like the idea of my having to serve on a jury and listen. Besides, I have too many other responsibilities to be a good jurist. I think next time I get called for a jury, I will work on the elderly father excuse. My father (finally) got a new computer; I set it up for him on Sunday, and every time he touches it he has another tech support question.

And my brand-new 75-300mm Canon Lens had to get returned to Adorama yesterday, because I was getting an “err_99.” Taking a pencil eraser and rubbing the gold points on the lens did not do the trick. This was the lens that allowed me to captured the robin and swallow in my Nature Notes this week. I hope a new lens comes, without any error messages appearing soon after I get excited about how wonderful the lens is.

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And in yet even more news, #themethursday this week is Typography. You don’t have to have a Twitter account to benefit. Go to and put #themethursday as your search term. Enjoy the typography links! Love well-done typography. Something I’ve always wanted to learn in greater detail.