Returning to the basics of Purim


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Mishloach Manot

Mishloach Ma-NOT!!!!!

No one needs to impress me, dazzle me, think of me or spend time with me. I am a woman and I am alone.

This really hit home for me this week when I received 1 Mishloach Manot (kudos Last family). Truthfully, I hate the waste that comes with Purim and I dislike the high-school level popularity contest that it represents. When i used to be in the state of coupledom I would receive so many Mishloach Manot that our table was filled to overflowing. And yet, I am content with my status quo.

I came to the realization that i have good friends who may not live close to where I live but are always there for me, I have family whom I love and kids who are the best company.  We had a good time with costumes and delivering Mishloach Manot to the kid’s friends. I felt relieved to make it through Purim without too much financial or emotional strain and my parents shared my seudah with me. I have returned to the basics of Purim.

Now who else can say the same?

Gone with the wind friendships


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Dog and cat friends

Friends through it all

When getting divorced, especially in a family oriented community, I have found that many of the people who I thought were friends and couples who I enjoyed many wonderful times with became distant memories. If I may be so bold as to create a comparison: Life is like an outfit; sometimes it flatters you and sometimes it fits, it sometimes needs changing, and sometimes it just makes you fat. Life has accessories too such as friends, homes, cars and a partner. When you change your life “outfit” many tmes your “accessories” need adjusting too. (Please don’t take this literally…it is purely for the sake of literary license).

In some ways the separation comes with a twinge of remorse: the couple who always served the best food, had the greatest views, the most engaging conversations and the best toys for the kids to play with. Other times it comes with an overwhelming feeling of relief. You no longer have to put up with that annoying wife of your husband’s friend who you never have anything to say to or made annoying jokes at someone’s expense.

Let’s just look at our work friends for a minute, our colleagues. When you switch jobs and forlornly say goodbye, you know that these people who you spent every day with for the past few years will most likely drop off the end of your life, never be seen again. It doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on them or on you for that matter even if you both keep saying, “Let’s keep in touch, ok”? For obvious reasons, in people’s fast paced lifestyles proximity does make for an easier friendship and since you never had to make an effort to see each other before what makes you think you would start now?

Are there any specific traits or behaviors that lead to long term friendships?

It reminds me of a book I once read about ordinary everyday people who became heroes due to a heroic act that they did spontaneously. They couldn’t explain what motivated them to act on the spur of the moment. There really was no defining trait for heroic behaviour.  All that they could be sure of was that they were presented with a situation where they just knew that they had to act. What the author wrote in the forward to this book was that we are always so fascinated with what motivates the serial killer or someone who stands on a tower and shoots tens of people or who kidnaps someone and mutilates them and yet we are never fascinated by the reverse scenario: What motivates an ordinary person to act altruistically or heroically?

During my divorce proceedings many of the couples whom I thought to be close seem to have just become part of the unwritten divorce settlement. The reverse is true as well. I have been pleasantly surprised to find myself spending time with people and couples who I never would have in my previous coupled life. I enjoy their company and that’s all there is too it. They are kind and giving and we love to laugh together.

If you are looking for answers as to which friends will move to the other side and which will just fall through the cracks never to be seen or heard from again, I don’t have any. But let me just say that when you are single for the second time around you learn very quickly who your real friends are. You are wearing a new outfit and only you and you alone will decide which accessories look best on you.

And just remember darling: You look fabulous!

A Guest Above The Rest


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What type of guest are you?

I grew up in a home where I don’t remember EVER eating a meal without having someone extra at our table.  My parents are great hosts and I know that being a good host/hostess is a challenge. I have seen countless articles and books dealing with the complexities of this role.  Who doesn’t already know this since we are bombarded with Martha Stewart lessons in hors d’oeuvres, napkin folding tips, table settings and beautiful flower arrangements? Hyper-hosting has turned the simple act of having parties and getting together with friends into three course events that usually include a theme and a party planner.

Napkins and flower arrangeements


The other side to this hosting equation receives much less publicity, the forgotten link that can make or break your role as a host:

The guest.

You want your hostess with the mostess to see you as a guestess with the bestess? Here’s my breakdown of the good and bad guests. Plain and simple:

The Bad Guest:

  • The Shmoozer– It is totally irrelevant whether anyone is listening or not. They are totally oblivious as to whether people are interested in what they have to say and they can stay for countless hours after all others have left to continue their “fascinating “ conversation with whoever is not yet nodding off to sleep.
  • The Cruiser– this is the guest who just stopped by long enough to eat the last danish, make a promise about that they will be back again real soon, to use the bathroom and to make a grand exit.
  • The Loser– they never seem to have plans and for a good reason. Whether it’s their lack of social etiquette or their inability to make eye contact. They are the ones who bring their leftover bread slices and pineapple juice to “share” so that it doesn’t go bad and they generally aren’t able to connect with anyone inparticular despite repeated attempts on everyone’s part to make conversation.
  • The User– These are guests of convenience. Their convenience, not yours. Once they don’t need you anymore you will never hear from them again.
  • The Abuser- They make sure to let you know in advance that they only eat japanese vegetarian food, that the music is too loud, the soup too salty, and they apologize profusely while asking you to wrap up the leftovers for them to take home. 
  • The Muser- They don’t comment, compliment or join in the conversation and they tend to spend most of their time staring into space. You wonder if they are philosophers and if there is MORE to them than meets the eye when really there is LESS…much, much less. You wonder if your meal will be the contributing factor to their suicide attempt when, miraculously, on their way out they somehow manage to mumble: “Thanks, I had a great time.”

The Good Guest:

Gratitude goes a long way…
  • Give- Just bring something, damn it, even when your host insists otherwise.
  • Gauge- Don’t be oblivious to everyone around you. Yes, Spanish Inquisition Era manuscripts may be fascinating to YOU but if everyone else is staring into space then zip-it!
  • Good Nights- Overnight guests should not overuse any one household item without confirming that it is ok with their hosts first. Don’t take overly long showers, don’t leave a mess in the bathroom, don’t leave wet towels on the floor and make sure to keep your room neat when you are going out.
  • Grace- you walk into a room and see people talking, recognize when it’s a conversation that requires privacy and don’t get involved.
  • Gratitude- Make sure to thank your host at different moments during your stay as a guest. It’s all about gratitude. Thank them for thinking of you when you arrive. Thank them again when you leave and make sure to compliment. Compliment their home, their cooking, their efforts and their kindness. And please try to sound sincere.
  • Gregarious- Smile and the world smiles with you. Meal time is not the time to burden everyone with your hardships and woes unless you are very close with your hosts. Smile, shmooze and enjoy.
  • Guess- Ask questions, show interest in others around you.
  • Giddy-Up! HAVE FUN! Nothing more fun than a guest who knows how to enjoy themselves.

Remembering David


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Mourning the Loss

I wanted to share this with you all if you don’t mind.

Today is the 8th Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his death) of my Uncle, David Rosenzweig, who was stabbed and killed down the street from where I lived in Toronto, while waiting with his son for a tow truck.

He was an amazing man in so many ways. He was kind, thoughtful, generous, and honest in business and a truly proud Jew. His parents who were Holocaust survivors always took pride in his achievements and yet he somehow always had time for them, for his kids his wife and for all of us. They would never have thought that they would lose another close relative, a son, to a hate crime after leaving the shores of Europe for Canada. His wife, Chavi,  is an amazing woman who to this day continues to deal with her loss in a super human way.

I remember his sudden and senseless death every year, especially since this private mourning also takes place during “the three weeks”, a time of collective mourning for the Jewish people.

Moses was born and died on the same Jewish day. This is indicative of his righteous character. We should not only be saddened by our loss on the date of his death but we should also be reminded to celebrate his birth and how valuable his contribution to the world was. So too, my Uncle David, was born and killed on the same Hebrew day. He was one of the righteous among us.

May his soul be elevated and may he be a pleader for good for the entire Jewish people and let us all strive never to take for granted how lucky we are to be in our land, the Land of Israel, living proudly as Jews.

Shabbat Shalom.

Just some articles and comments for those of you who aren’t familiar with his murder.

Coffee, newspapers and lots of kindness


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So, here’s the deal.

I was downtown. When I finished with my errands, I headed down to Jaffa street to wait for the 13 bus. At that point, I hadn’t yet had my morning coffee and I was very hungry. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself how some people live on a regular basis without knowing where their next meal will come from. The thought passed through my mind and as quickly as it came, it left.

By the bus stop a  man was giving out the “Jerusalem Hayom” newspaper. People seemed to know him and would stop to chat with him and pat him on the back as they passed. One bus-driver even slowed down and opened his doors. I watched with curiosity and intrigue as the man folded up one of his newspapers and threw it 10 meters, right through the door of the bus, landing in the bus driver’s lap. They gave each other a smile and thumbs up and the bus continued on.

Suddenly, I noticed a woman coming across the street with a cup of coffee in her hands. She hands it to the man and wishes him a good day. The happiness from this single cup of coffee showed on the man’s face. What an amazing act of kindness she did by remembering someone less fortunate than her. This aroused something deep inside me. I was inspired!

It was there that the beginning part of my day made sense to me. My downtown visit has started with me walking down Ben-Yehuda. It was still early and most of the stores hadn’t opened yet. In the centre of Jerusalem, even early in the morning, there is always activity. I enjoy that feeling of the fresh morning air that has settled over the streets, not yet polluted by the soon approaching traffic. And that little bit of mist in the air, which is a leftover from the dew.

Many people are in a hurry to get where they are going and very few have a chance to slow down and take a look around them. That day, I was not rushed and I was enjoying just strolling and looking around me. Unfortunately, I had left the house without eating, and I was starting to feel hungry. No matter. I would wait until I finished my errands and would eat when I got back home. The fact that I was a little hungry and I was not pressured to get anywhere that day I feel somehow contributed to what happened next.

I noticed the people around me who were homeless or struggling and looking for a handout or kind word from the people passing by. It pained me greatly to see a person lying on the floor, without anyone to lift him up and to comfort him. I have great respect for the music street players, who play with enthusiasm in order to earn some money for their lunch or dinner. There are many other people who are just sitting around. Maybe they are waiting: waiting for something to happen, waiting for the soup kitchen to open and give them something to eat or maybe they are waiting for Godot (but God knows he never comes!). I don’t know who they are or why they are there. They just are.

Especially after witnessing the act of kindness by bringing a cup of coffee to someone who was working and struggling in the heat of the day, I couldn’t help but be conscious of the fact we have a definite void in Jerusalem, a city where there are so many charitable organizations and social organizations. We may have health care. We may have soup kitchens We may have  multiple charities. But there is something still missing.

A few years ago my dear Uncle Avrum filled that void in Toronto. And I think the time has come for us to fill it here in our holy city of Jerusalem.

Avrum Rosensweig

MY Uncle Avrum

The Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless is a way for us to reach out to the homeless and those in need without forcing them to be exposed or to leave their comfort zones. It helps us be able to connect with people on the streets, around the city and offer them food, drinks, and a comforting word.

To be continued!

Running My First Half Marathon


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Jerusalem Half-Marathon pictures

Pre Marathon with Family

I was near the end…I knew that nothing would stop me from getting to the finish line… 

And there it was, in front of me. I felt my feet move from the hard surface of the asphalt to the cushioned turf of the race track. I kept running. I was almost there. I saw the finish line ahead of me. People all around me were socializing, basking in the glory of their newly achieved victory, wishing their loved ones and friends congratulations. And I would be there soon. 

I DID IT! Two hours and fourteen minutes later, I crossed the finish line. I looked around me. My body was totally drained. I had no energy to even stand anymore. I sat down on the grass. I looked around but I couldn’t find anything to quench that unbelievable thirst I was feeling. No popsicles, no water, nothing! I lay down and looked up at the sky. What had started off as grey and gloomy that morning was now blue with white fluffy clouds above me. I didn’t stretch. I would definitely pay for that later. I was feeling this great high and terrible low all at the same time. My sister stood over me, not exactly sure what to do or how to help…feeling helpless. Someone brought me a sugar drink and a muffin; I don’t know who it was but it was a definite act of kindness on their part. Mental note to self: Next time bring food, drinks, toilet paper and lots of courage.

This was my first time running a half-marathon. The Jerusalem half-marathon is a stunning and inspiring run. We ran through ancient valleys, parks, through the Jerusalem forest, to the top of the hills of the neighborhood Bayit Vegan, down towards the Malcha valley and back to the University. It was breathtaking.

I have been training for this event in a truly committed way from my home town, Efrat. It is hilly in my home town so it was definitely a familiar thing for me to run on uneven terrain when I ran in Jerusalem. It was so beautiful to look out onto the hills and the beautiful views Jerusalem has to offer while listening to Matisyahu’s song about Jerusalem. And even when I was listening to 50 Cent (he’s such a poet) I felt this burning determination to do this thing. 

I said to me, “Self, you are going to finish this run! Not because you are in better shape than anyone here running with you, not because you are stronger or even because you are more fit. You are going to finish this race because you are determined to do so. And that was that!”

Me finishing the race

Me crossing the finish line

The will of man/woman coupled with opportunity is a sure fire recipe for success. Thank you God for the opportunity and thank you to myself for not giving up! This post was written in honor of the children of Shalva and their families who have the will. May God give them all the opportunities they need to make their lives truly beautiful!

Women’s fitness group in Efrat

As many of you know, I had a baby in February and decided to start walking around with my baby in Efrat. I was out of shape and unable to even push the stroller up the Rachel Imeinu hill without feeling like I was going to die. Now I am training for marathons and I feel great. It only takes some hard work and perseverance to make your body feel great and look great too.

Here is what I suggest, I am starting a women’s exercise group in Efrat to motivate and support all of you on your quests to health and physical fitness. This is not Curves, I am not a dietitian, I am here to give you a fitness goal and by committing to smaller goals you will be able to build yourself up and improve your overall fitness.

The commitment is minimal compared to the importance of the goal. If you are interested in having structure and just getting out there and exercising, call me and I will explain to you how it works.

Mothers with babies and strollers are also welcome! I will have a special route/program for moms and in fact the stroller will help you to have some resistance when working out so feel free to call me and I will explain it all to you.

This is also a wonderful chance to have a social network giving you support and making sure that you keep up with your fitness goals.

I look forward to speaking with you further.

Devora Mason

Ten Tips For Picking A Kablan


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Ten Tips for Picking a Kablan

First and foremost, let me just say that I am not responsible for any retivut (leaking) in your walls merely because you have read this article! This advice is free, and as long as I am not standing there watching how the Kablan (contractor) works, you may not come back and complain to me! Secondly, I am a feminist but I have not yet met a female Kablan, so please excuse the fact that I will refer to the Kablan in the male form for the sake of this article. Phew! Now down to business.

A Kablan should be responsible for ensuring the highest quality of work in your future home. He will listen to your requests, always answer his phone and make sure to keep coming back until you are completed satisfied. The finished job will make you happy and when you look around your home, you will have only good memories from the building process and your dealings with him. Does this sound even vaguely familiar?

Most people flee from building and renovations like nobody’s business. Why is it so difficult to know how to pick the right Kablan?

People constantly fall into a few traps:

  • A low price quote

Do not always think that saving that money will pay off in the end. Sometimes it is better to hold off on some of the things you wanted to do and to pay a little bit more for better quality. Remember, you get what you pay for! In addition, if the work is of a low standard, you will probably end up paying more, in the end, to fix his mistakes.

  • A friendly smile

A smile is nice if you are married to him, but sometimes a gruff nature is reassuring because you know that he will be able to stand up and fight for things when you need them. He needs to deal with difficult workers and issues all day, make sure he has the ability to do so.

  • He’s your friend’s husband/brother/father/neighbor

Someone I know who wanted to help her co-worker, hired this woman’s husband to be their Kablan. This Kablan was so deep in debt that he took the first payment from them, gutted the apartment and left them living in vile conditions for a few months until he came back. Apparently, he used their payment to pay off his other debts and had to wait for more money before he was able to buy the necessary materials to start their job.

Here are the top ten things you should consider when hiring a Kablan:

  1. Get references. Usually three are enough. Make sure to speak to people who just finished their construction so that things are fresh in their minds and to people who are a year or two after finishing so that they can tell you if any problems have come up. Try to get the opinion of an unbiased skilled third party like an architect or engineer. It is important to know what materials and level of workmanship you are getting for your money.
  2. Make sure that he is willing to work with your architect or designer. A skilled architect will make you a refined and well-detailed plan but the builder needs to be knowledgeable enough to be able to improvise on these plans to maintain work progress. Improvisation and planning are both essential steps to the building process.
  3. Even excellent laborers make mistakes; the question is how they recover from them, what they learned and that they do not make the same mistakes twice.
  4. The three traits you should look for in a Kablan are character, competence and dedication!
  5. Let us not forget about honesty! Clients generally know much less about design and construction than the people they are dealing with. The best strategy to combat this is to use professionals with unquestionable integrity.
  6. A Kablan should be flexible. How does he react when you change your mind or have a change to the original plans? Is he able to adapt?
  7. Get detailed quotes and make sure that you account for all the details in the building project. Sometimes a lower quote is missing some of the hidden costs that one of your other quotes included.
  8. Do not compare your project with seemingly similar projects since, more often than not, it leads to faulty expectations and does not provide much help in your decision-making.
  9. Make sure that the Kablan has the payment fees set up fairly so that you can manage the payments and so that the money transfers hands after a fair amount of work has been completed.
  10. Finally, if you are already fighting with each other and you have not even signed yet, then do not sign! A lot of the work with a Kablan is personality and if you are not getting along now then go with your gut feeling. You need to be able to speak openly and regularly with your project manager. Open dialogue minimizes future construction problems and misunderstandings.

Getting Rid of Clutter- Part 1


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“Why are you throwing that thingy ding out?? It’s still good!”

This is the response I got when I attempted to throw out this old dusty doily, still in the plastic and never used, that we received as a present ten years ago. It became so much a part of the living room scenery that no one ever thought to throw it out or to give it too much attention.

There are a few steps necessary to get rid of clutter. Sometimes belongings can be so overwhelming and such a burden that you just give up. It’s not surprising that minimalism is sometimes a reaction to a prolonged exposure to clutter! Don’t give up! Remember that no one is going to clean for you, at best they will push things around or hide them from view in a cupboard so that you get attacked by stuff the next time you open your cupboard.

Therefore, here is what I am going to suggest as a start. First, decide on an amount of time that you are going to give to clearing unwanted belongings and stick to it!

Do not forget to reward yourself too. For example, ten minutes of work gets you 1 point, 5 points mean that you can buy yourself a new bathroom or kitchen accessory or bath soap/oil, 10 points means that you should go out to eat with a friend and have a celebratory brunch. You would be surprised how much can be done in ten minutes! Next time you have a basket of laundry that needs folding and you are procrastinating about it, fold the entire basket and time how long it took you. Not more than ten minutes for sure, and it helps clear that unsightly basket from your living room!

Now before you attack any space make sure that you have three baskets or boxes;
• One box for giving away
• One box for throwing out
• One box for relocating to another space in the house or for returning to someone else

Many times when you are cleaning, if you do not have those boxes you get distracted from the main task. You will sit down at the computer to check the charity hours for giving stuff away, then you check your email, then you take something upstairs to the kid’s rooms to put away, and then you start to do something upstairs etc. Before you know it, you are an hour into your work and you do not see any noticeable change.

So you are almost ready to get started, you have the three boxes or bags and your timer…

One last tip, try to get an impartial person or third party to help you with your task. They do not have to do the dirty work but they have to sit there and pass judgment on some of the items when you are unsure. Make it fun for them, bake some cookies, and make some yummy coffee to go with it. It is very important because something that has become ragged or decrepit can sometimes slip by us because we remember it in bygone days as new and eye catching.

A few years ago when I was moving overseas, my sister Deena came over to keep me company and to give me moral support (and to eat my muffins). She taught me a very valuable lesson. I had a huge doll collection, dolls from carnivals, childhood, presents etc. I did not know if I should keep Tweety or Sylvester, Barney or Bob the builder? So she said to me, “Devora, first decide on the number of dolls you want to own. Now, pick that number and the rest give away!” This was amazing advice! I choose the ten best ones (with her guidance, of course) and the other 30 (ha-ha) I gave away. I never looked back.

Let me sum it all up, again. These are the first steps to getting your home in order:
1. Designate an amount of time that is doable for you
2. Reward yourself
3. Have three spaces/boxes/bags for giving away, moving around and throwing out
4. Decide on amounts you can/should keep and then make your decisions based on that number or amount.
5. Have an impartial bystander who can help you make decisions without emotions

Now we are ready to begin.
To be continued…