The Best Motto

Gd, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannon change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

You woke up this morning - Congratulations! You got another chance!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Александр Городницкий - Галилей - profound and timeless

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Once again, I did not get a chance to acknowledge all the recent Holidays, so, here are my belated “Happy Holidays” and some random remarks.

As long as I celebrated Purim, I always loved that day – precisely for what it represents and what we are celebrating. Of course, in our illustrious neighbourhood, people usually tend to forget the forest for the trees – and the rush to outperform each other in the Misheloach Manot department usually overshadows everything else. Plus, this was the first Purim without munchkins – so, the celebratory spirit was slightly on the thin side. Also, due to slight monetary constrains, I decided to honour the spirit of the holiday by spending whatever money I could on the gifts for the poor and giving only one Misheloach Manot – to my mom. This year, I sort of wanted to get a costume, but by the time I figured out whom I wanted to be (a witch, of course), it was a bit late in the game. On the plus side, a good acquaintance from Riverdale invited me for the festive meal, and, as The Bronx community is much more chilled than ours, I ended up having a smashing time – even surrounded by liberals. Of course, Americans can not drink properly – as was demonstrated again by that particular feast. By the time I was ready to leave, the hostess observed that only 6 bottles of wine were consumed! Later that evening, while summarizing the whole thing on facebook, she came to the realization that the whole 10 bottles were empty – after 30 guests (at which point she thought that that was a sufficient alcohol consumption)! My American born and raised Jewish brothers and sisters – you have absolutely no knowledge of what true drinking entails!

Which brings me to Pesach, during which the absence of munchkins was present as well, but, all in all, I had a nice Holiday and enjoyed the overpriced poor bread – otherwise known as matza. Also remembered why and what we celebrate.

Which brings me to Shavuot, during which the absence of munchkins was felt too. Also, that is usually the time we start turning on the air conditioning – and this time there was no exceptions (sigh). I love Shavuot, but the three H weather is not usually conducive to deep thoughts and introspections. None the less, it was a time of great celebration.

On Purim I made the requisite visits to schul – and this time did not manage to avoid The Head Yenta. On Pesach and Shavuot the will was there – but the body was not willing, so, ended up missing Birkat Cohanim, for a change.

On the side note: people always claim that they get cold just by looking at my flip flops in October (and beyond); by the same token, I get hot just by looking at our esteemed matrons and maidens, dressed all (or mostly) in black garments, usually constructed from non-breathable materials.

And now – a little note from my grouchy side. I love my friends; I enjoy their company and I am always very grateful to all of them for their hospitality and delicious meals. But (a tiny fly in the ointment) there is usually at least one guest at every meal whose extreme intellectual abilities, wide and varied educational background, and solid political views give me indigestion and make my head pound and my blood boil. Having attained certain maturity, I came to the conclusion that arguing with idiots is a total waste of breath, time, and energy – but sometimes I simply can't listen to all the nonsense uttered and not roll my eyes.

This particular Holiday season was, unfortunately, not an exception. Below is a short list of brilliant things I have heard this time around (hopefully, I will write rebuttals to at least some of those):

As I learned American history in Russia, I am not qualified to offer my opinion on that particular subject.

We need affirmative actions today because we used to have slavery.

The high rate of anti-Semitism amongst the blacks is very surprising.

99.9% of Americans believe that Obama is a great orator.

Israel needs to be soft on Arabs since it is fighting the war of public opinion.

Obama is willing to give federal support to the Jewish schools; Romney would only give it to the Protestant ones.

Christians taught Muslims blood libels; our esteemed cousins could not possible arrive at those on their own.

England had no right to exist as a country.

Secular anti-Semites are baffled by our community: here is a collection of smart, educated, worldly people, so the presence of religious believes in not clear.

We (the current wave or Russian Jewish immigrants) are here due to the tireless efforts of Mikhail Gorbachev.

We needed the internet asifa.

There is no American exceptionalism.

I am sure there was much more, but my brain blessedly blocked it from my memory.

Aside from that (and the absence of munchkins), I had a wonderful and pretty meaningful Holiday season.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Previously, on Barb's World the following took place:

(Part 2)

Aside from becoming a part of the unemployment statistics, a few other things happened to me in that time gap of non-blogging, the most notable of which was my 2010 Birthday.

Drum roll please! Here comes a huge confession! OK, enough with the drum roll – I turned 40 in 2010.

Here is a little known fact about me: I was, of course, named in the Jewish tradition – after a relative; only usually the relatives we are named after are at least one generation removed – unless that name is a “special” case. Well, my name was. I was named after my father's younger sister - who died from hunger in infancy during WWII.

Now, when I was young(er), “old people”, especially women, always claimed that at a certain point birthdays cease being fun or something to look forward to – or to celebrate. I can definitely attest to this fact...Not that I don't enjoy birthdays once they come, but I definitely stopped looking forward to them. And on this one I kept thinking about a particular novel by Lisa Kleypas. Amanda from Suddenly You had a bit in common with your humble servant; not only this, but I was tempted to do something on the par with the crazy thing she did for her thirtieth birthday (which, in Victorian times, equaled 40 in ours, I guess)...alas, things that happen in novels we read to escape the real life rarely, if ever, happen in real life; that is why we read those books.

Not only was I not especially looking forward to that Birthday, but by the time it came, I was slightly approaching comatose state – due mostly to the happenings described in the previous chapter. I did not even get myself a customary “Happy Birthday To Me” present. Never the less, my family, as always, tried to make it as special as possible. My mom sort of took care of it on Shabat, and my sister and brother-in-law took me out for a fantastic meal at La Marais (which happens to be a smashing stake house). We were later joined by a dear friend of the family and his wife; my mom graciously baby set the munchkins (as traveling to Manhattan is not a lot of fun for her), and I got to break out my new evening bag from Vera Bradley (purchased, of course, on e-bay). My dad and Baby Bro, being stoic men, offered me heart-felt congratulations, and gave sweet, from the heart, gifts. All in all, it was a good birthday, even if without much bang (which, frankly, I did not want at all).

Now, when you reach a certain age, you are (hopefully), at that level of maturity when you feel you learned something from life – and where (sometimes) you feel the need to start dispensing unsolicited advice to young whipper-snappers.

I don't feel like dispensing any kind of advise – solicited or otherwise – but here are some things (in no particular order), which I think I realized with approaching years.

Your parents are always right. You still feel the need to make your own mistakes and listen only to your experiences and your gut, but something in them – love, intuition, prophetic knowledge, greater wisdom (who the heck knows) – will always see the best path for you.

Loving family is paramount to happiness – plain and simple.

Energy level does decrease; it creeps up pretty stealthily, and you don't notice it right away - but all of a sudden you feel more like staying at home in your pjs then getting dressed and doing something fun outside. On top of that comes realization that you can't sustain yourself on 4 hours of sleep anymore, the way you did in college and long after.

Body very slowly, but very surely, also begins to go south. The more you look in the mirror, the more lines you see on your face (and somehow breakouts still happen!). Every time you get a haircut, you notice more gray hairs. Joints begin to creak. All the small injuries that you forgot about in your twenties and thirties all of the sudden start reminding about themselves oh so quietly. And one day you realize that your vision may not be 20/20 anymore.

You begin to realize that when “old people” were talking about good health as a greatest of blessings, they weren't talking nonsense.

Friends are really important. Good acquaintances are nice and needed as well, but real friends – people who would be there for you no matter what – you really, really need them. And once you get one true, fantastic friend – fight tooth and nail in order to preserve that friendship.

I don't think anyone reached my age and did not experience at least one major disaster in their lives; for me those were my parents' break up, my mother's cancer, and 9/11 – and some less major, but not less painful things. Also, through no fault of my own, I lost some important components in my life – and even though I never loose hope of regaining those intangible components, in my darker moments I become afraid that I never will.

Men are not the enemy. They are annoying, exasperating, selfish, obtuse...believe me, the list of adjectives is long. But Mr. Darcy does exist – even today; you just have to wade through a lot of Whickams, Collinses, and even Bingleys before you find him. The results are not guaranteed – but without mutual love and respect there is no happy marriage.

Being a woman is a blessing and a curse. It is (and probably always will be) a man's world – despite the suffragettes, feminists, and the natural progression of the Western Civilization. We feel more – and much deeper; care more; take on way more responsibilities; and are way more vulnerable – both emotionally and physically. But we do have the ability and the power to bring love, kindness, and caring into the world – under any circumstances.

Children are the biggest blessing in life there is. Long time ago, in my salad days, I attended a lecture about different levels of happiness that a human being can attain in this world. Being able to imitate The Almighty – creating something – is one of the highest levels; but no other attempt at creation even begins to approach the creation of a child! And nothing on this Earth equals a moment when a child smiles at you, looks at you with an unreserved love, and hugs you with his or her tiny, pudgy arms. And every time you listen to them, you get to remember and partially re-experience the exuberance only they have for exploring the world – and the innocence with which they see it.

I am sure there are many more things I have learned – just can't remember them now. The important thing in life is to take whatever you have learned so far and build up on it towards the general fulfillment and happiness. But, in the best Jewish tradition, I can't just look forward – I have to constantly look behind and analyze everything again and again.

Everyone who knows me personally can vouch for the fact that I am a confirmed non-conformist – pun not intended. But very few, if any, know that that does not steam from my need to defy authority – I just want to lead my life according to my own logic, and not the norm accepted by the mediocrity at large. All the seemingly crazy things I do come from that – and sometimes from the desire to observe Burke's famous uttering.

Long time ago, in college, at one of the psych classes taught by the prof that I hated and everyone else loved, we had a discussion about compromises as opposed to staying true to one's conscience. My naive self claimed that by not compromising your principles you get to sleep at night – to which the esteemed educator responded that at that particular course a person usually ends up sleeping on the bench. And everyone in that particular group agreed!

Irony of ironies – I tried to lead my life opposite to that cynical remarks; but sometimes I think that if not for my family, Gd bless them, few times in my life I would have ended sleeping on the park bench. So, the introspection and the soul searching go on.

Back to the origin of my name. A few years ago, couple of well-meaning relatives who enjoy dabbling in Kabalah, told my mom that I should change my name or add to it – because my poor aunt, who never really had a chance at life, is jealous of me – and that explains the present (not completely satisfactory) state of my life.

Now, being a stubborn mule (see above), I categorically refused to play with my name – and not only because I personally believe that our parents don't just name us – it does come to them in a certain prophetic way. You see, knowing my father's family, I am firmly convinced that she is not jealous; but sometimes I am afraid that I don't really give that much luster to the name.

So, here I am – armed with my Jewish stiff neck and (hopefully) some acquired knowledge and wisdom, I am hopefull that I will yet make her proud of me. Happy UnBirthday!