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Archive for September, 2007

Thirteen Things about just making it up.

I just realized I’ve missed a ton of Thursday Thirteens. Oops.

Thursday Thirteen that suck about having ADD:

  1. Where did I leave my keys?
  2. I don’t remember where my wallet is.
  3. Overdue book fines.
  4. To do lists only work when you can find them.
  5. The grocery lists rarely make it to the grocery store.
  6. What did I come downstairs for?
  7. “Why did you leave the dishes out?” “Sorry, I got distracted.”
  8. “Why is this laundry basket in the middle of the floor?” “Sorry, I got distracted.”
  9. “Did you finish putting the groceries away?” “Sorry, I got distracted.”
  10. Never getting out of the house on the first try.
  11. Everyone thinks you are dopy.
  12. It can be hereditary and then you can’t help him as much as you should because you forget as much as he does.
  13. Forgetting to charge your cellphone so that when you can’t find it, you can’t phone it to find it by the ring.


Links to other Thursday Thirteens:
1. Pass the Chocolate

2. Bring Your Own Cheese

3. Burnt Offerings

4. MamaArcher (kindly put me in her 13 favourite Thursday Thirteens on motherhood.)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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So I did my TV show yesterday. I used to drag cameras out to events and film them so I could show those instead of my awkward self, but my self has gotten a lot less awkward in front of the camera and I’ve changed how I do things. The last few shows, I’ve just gathered people in studio and had a discussion on some topic or another.

The obvious topic this time was funding of religious schools. My guests were like the start of a bad joke – a Jew,  a Christian and a Muslim walk into a TV station … But they were great – articulate, well-informed and smart. I particularly liked the Muslim woman. She’s a very outspoken and involved woman and I was surprised, when I met her, to see that she was a tiny and very young-looking. (I wonder how many men underestimate her based on that?) Anyway, she brought her outrageously cute young son and I brought my three, and we abandoned them in the Green room with construction paper, markers and orders to behave. I wasn’t really worried – Maya is very responsible. Turns out they were all having so much fun that the little guy didn’t want to leave at the end since mine were staying while I taped my introduction.

I brought up the various arguments against funding religious schools. These were the responses:

1. It will take money away from public school.

Schools are funded based on how many students are enrolled. Just because another school is now also getting money doesn’t mean that first school will receive any less. No money will leave the system. Yes, they will have to put more money into the school system to pay for the extra students, but since we are talking about only an extra 53,000 kids (this is a very, very small percentage of Ontario students), it isn’t going to break the bank. And, as one guest pointed out, if all the parents sending their kids to religious day schools suddenly decided to pull them and put them in public school, as is their right, the government would have to find the money, and would.

2. Religious day schools are against Ontario’s values of multi-culturalism and those students will grow up less tolerant of others.

This one is just silly. The Muslim guest was a former principal of an Islamic school and pointed out that her students graduated with a strong sense of their own identity and self-esteem, and were more likely to comfortably integrate into society (which they’ve obviously been doing all along, with soccer, and neighbours, and inter-school tournaments). Providing a child with a strong sense of who he or she is does not make them less likely to be an involved citizen.

3. Tons of kids would leave the public system for religious schools, taking even more money out and segregating kids more.

Other provinces that already fund religious schools (Newfoundland, Quebec) have not found this to be the case. The numbers don’t change much. And my Christian guest pointed out what a sad argument this is – basically ‘the public system sucks so much that if you give people any option, they’ll leave.’

4. The Muslim schools will become terrorist breeding grounds funded by public money. Again, my Muslim guest answered this well. Firstly, she pointed out that the schools already exist and no one has a problem with how they are teaching their students, so why would that change with public funding? And secondly, as it stands, the schools have standards enforced by the parents, who expect a good education for their children, but they do not have to keep up to provincial standards – and with lack of funds, some of the smaller schools struggle to do so. By providing provincial funding, all these schools will be brought under the government umbrella and forced to keep to provincial standards. The extra scrutiny means the chances of anyone teaching hate or intolerance is less likely, not more.

So, it was a good, in-depth discussion. Too bad more people won’t see it.

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Okay, what’s with the obsession with luck lately? For the past couple of weeks, the post that is getting the most hits is an old one about four-leaf clovers. Lots of people are searching for luck on google, which I find just weird.

The other search string I get a lot is a variation on Dalton McGuinty’s hypocrisy. Seems there are a fair number of people out there who think he’s a hypocrite. And a fair number who just plain hate the guy. Also, a good number of people have popped on asking what school his kids go to. I like to think they aren’t stalking him, rather, they are just confirming that in fact his kids do go to Catholic school – the source of his hypocrisy.

But despite the people finding their way to me, polls show that the majority of Ontarians are still against funding other religious school. In the paper today, someone said right out in a letter that it will allow Muslims to more easily set up terrorist training camps. McGuinty must be delighted.

I’m doing my little TV show tomorrow on the topic, with a Jew, a Christian and a nice Muslim woman terrorist on to discuss it. God, people are stupid – not the nice Jew, Christian and Muslim I’ll be talking to, of course, but the idiots who think Muslims are all terrorists.

I’m in an extra bad mood because it is 1:40 am and I am conscious. I have insomnia.

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Today, Asher was in a bad mood after school, crying over not being able to find a snack he wanted. I asked him if anything bad happened in school today and he said, “Nothing unusual, just the same old shit. They make me work there and I don’t like work.” He said it so casually. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to stop the bad language completely and am just trying to compartmentalize it, I must confess. Just don’t swear around the grandparents and teachers, please.

I am an awful mother.

I don’t remember any kids his age swearing when I was young. None. According to him, all his friends swear this way. Not Maya’s though, and she’s older. I wonder if it is a boy thing.

Oh, this reminds me of a funny, though. In the summer, a good friend rented the cottage next to ours for a couple of weeks with a friend. We’d pop over regularly. Her friend really loves Jasper and once when Asher showed up there alone, my friend asked Asher, “Where’s your dad?” Asher answered, “With Jasper.” Her friend then asked, “Well, where’s Jasper?” Asher replied, “Taking a shit on your lawn.” They were appalled, but I thought it was hysterical when they told me. That’s the problem, of course. I am not appropriate shocked, and my kids see right through me when I try to be.

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Okay, one last thing. I promised to say why Jasper avoided a buzz cut. I’m sure no one really cares that I haven’t followed up on it, but it’ll eat away at my soul until I honour my promise.

That’s all bullshit, of course. I just want to share with the world, or at least the doodle owners who surf onto here, the amazing discovery I made. A couple of months ago, Jasper started to mat like crazy, which apparently doodles do when their adult coats come in. Everyone goes on about how great it is to have a non-shedding dog, but no one mentions that it means you get a clumpy mess if you don’t really take care of it. I don’t mind, though. I love to brush him and hack off the hair growing over his eyes and such.

But I brushed and brushed, and still he matted. I cut the mats out, but he finally reached the stage where his hair wasn’t successfully covering the bald spots and the only answer I could come up with was shaving him down. As he has white skin and red fur, this was not going to be pretty.

The problem was, what to do when his hair grew out? Would he just start to mat again? I put the question to an on-line doodle group and one guy pointed me to a line of brushes with the stupid name of Les Pooches. These things aren’t in regular stores, requiring one to order the $85 brush from New York and then pay shipping and duty, without even testing driving the thing. Ouch.

However, a little more poking around as I looked for reviews allowed me to make the discovery that there is one store in all of Canada that sells these brushes and it is, unbelievably, about 20 minutes drive from here. I drove straight over. The nice store lady demonstrated the brush, miraculously brushing out several mats right there. And, to top it off, she was charging $10 less. I never have luck like that.

I bought it (expensive, yes, but less than the price of a single grooming session) and chased poor Jasper around for days, brushing out all the mats. And now my boy has long, soft, tangle-free hair. He was lying in the school yard today with about 6 children surrounding him with their hands buried in his hair, saying, “He’s so soft.” He’s still my pretty boy.

Gratuitous cut kid shot. They all look so happy. They all were so happy:

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I’m really bloody tired.

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Okay, I don’t have all the answers, but this is a column I wrote for the Jewish newspaper, for which I did journalisty things like research and interview people, so it is my take on things. The most difficult part of it was keeping my own experiences out of it, so maybe I’ll write those up tomorrow (or the next day …)

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In some ways, it is difficult to discern how the broader Jewish community views those who have converted to Judaism. Of course, there is the ‘official’ line, but finding out what people really think can be more difficult. It seems that the best way to find that out is to ask the Jews by choice themselves how they feel they have been welcomed in their chosen religion.

Both the Torah and Talmud instruct that once someone has converted, they are as Jewish as any other, to the point that their conversions are considered irrelevant and not to be referred to. They are not ‘converts,’ but merely ‘Jews.’ But Jewish experiences in the diaspora before the last few decades made Jews very suspicious of those wanting to join them, and there is some evidence that the suspicion hasn’t completely disappeared.

It doesn’t help that Judaism is more than just a religion, but a culture, even an ethnicity. Some – both those converting and born Jewish – question the possibility of successfully joining someone else’s culture.

Add to that the controversy over who does the conversion, that the Orthodox movement does not accept conversions performed by those of other movements, and the question of acceptance is of real concern.

Every Jew by choice interviewed for this article remembers facing negative comments about those who have converted. Ironically, these almost always came from people who did not realize that they were speaking to a convert. Many Jews by choice find it easy to dismiss such remarks, and the people who make them.

Michael Walsh, a Jew by choice whose volunteer work in development in the Jewish community brings him in contact with a wide variety of people, says he has always felt completely welcomed and accepted. He has heard the occasionally disparaging remark, he admits, but says, “The key is to not be sensitive to stupid comments. They don’t represent the wider community.”

He also points out: “It is a glass-half-full kind of thing. You will find what you are looking for.” He explains that he believes those expecting acceptance are more likely to find it.

Another Jew by choice, Wayne Moore, said something similar. He feels you get out of life what you put in, and someone who converts with sincerity and immerses themselves in the community will be fully welcomed.

About the occasional unpleasant comment, Moore says, “No one else’s reactions really matter. I did this for myself. I have a supportive wife and extended family and they are the ones who matter.” That being said, he feels completely accepted by the Ottawa Jewish community. “I have always found it very warm and welcoming.”

While Walsh and Moore haven’t found that their decisions to convert for their Jewish families has made their acceptance any more complicated, Christine Kessler admits she sometimes feels judged by those who think she converted to marry her husband, Gary, a born Jew. She finds this a bit frustrating, especially as she had decided to convert whether she married Gary or not.

The mere fact that Kessler and some others who converted before marriage feel the need to point out that they would have ended up Jewish anyway demonstrates that there is still some stigma around converting ‘just to get married.’ Another Jew by choice, who we’ll call Sara, as she declined to be named for this article, describes her deep frustration and hurt at being asked a number of times if she’d stay Jewish should her husband leave her or die.

“It shows they don’t consider me really Jewish,” she said, “Like I’m just playing at it for my husband.”

Sara was not the only convert who not willing to be named. Their opinion was that while they weren’t ashamed of it and would tell people if they asked, it just isn’t anyone’s business and they see no reason to advertise it.

Sara says the worst comments are the unintentional ones, such as when she told a good friend a Jewish joke. “It was self-deprecating, as they tend to be, the sort that might be considered anti-Semitic if someone Jewish wasn’t saying it, and he said that it made him uncomfortable to hear it from me, since I hadn’t always been Jewish. It made me realize that even though I sometimes even forget I haven’t been born Jewish no one else does, and that really hurt.”

It is possible that those who convert for faith alone rather than to marry someone Jewish manage to avoid some of these feelings of being judged. David M. is a good example. He says he has never felt any negative judgment about having converted, although he does admit that, upon finding out he did it just on his own, people do tend to ask, “What, are you nuts?”

“They are always joking, though,” he adds. “I do think that not converting for marriage does add to the perception of my sincerity, since I came to it completely on my own. Which is not a fair judgment about people who convert to marry, of course.”

Interestingly, the most obvious source of potential rejection – converting under a non-Orthodox rabbi – had little effect on the non-Orthodox Jews by choice who were interviewed for this article. While some kept within their own smaller Reform community, others are fully involved in the wider community and have found the rabbis of Ottawa to be completely welcoming.

While obviously Orthodox rabbis do not consider these Jews by choice to be Jewish according to halacha (Jewish law), and would not perform a marriage or bris for them, when not in that sort of situation no one spoken to has ever been treated as anything less than a full member of the community.

Clearly, acceptance into the Jewish community is an issue fraught with emotion for many people who have converted. But despite the fact that prejudices and problems still do exist for those who have chosen to be Jewish, everyone interviewed has found Ottawa to be a welcoming and largely non-judgmental Jewish community.

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I’m sorry I abandoned you, internet. I had a good reason, though, or seven. One, it was Rosh Hoshanah, which means the kids were home and there was kugel to be made. Then I got sick and spent the actual two days of Rosh Hoshanah sleeping between throwing up. I didn’t even get one picture of my adorable children all dressed up in their High Holiday finery, which kind of kills me, because they were so cute.

Also, there was the show Six Feet Under, which I have never seen. I impulsively rented the first disc of the first season. I played it on the laptop, allowing me to watch it while convalescing, or making kugel, or singing lullabyes (using earphones and my remarkable skill to sing “Hush Little Baby” without engaging my brain in the process at all, so I can read or watch a DVD at the same time). I’m almost finished season two now.

And then, there was the soapstone. In the summer, a family friend brought little bits of soapstone left over from her high school art class to let the kids play at shaping. They loved it, and so did I. Before I had kids, I used to carve soapstone as a hobby, but haven’t done so for years. But the bug re-bit me, so a few days ago, we found a local placed that provides small blocks and bought one. J cut it into smaller pieces so every one had one and we all sat at the kitchen table and carved and filed. Even J got into the act.

Maya is making a loon.

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Asher started out with a seal, but it wasn’t going right and a little examination made it clear that a bird was emerging from his rock, so that is what it now is.

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Boo wants a whale, which I am carving with her help (she files for a bit when she gets the urge). J is making a dolphin. Everyone is now at the sanding stage except for me, because I have to keep stopping to help the others, as the resident ‘expert’ (ie, the only one with a clue as to what to do next).

We are having so much fun. We’ve spent hours at the table, the whole family, carving and talking. Boo collects and plays with the powder created from filing and gives opinions as to how the carvings are going.

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I would have never imagined this as a family activity, but we all like it so much it is hard to tear ourselves away.

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Larry O’Brien

Okay, having complained about Ontario politics, I am now going to complain about Ottawa politics, which is not something I often do. I’m branching out.

But here’s what makes me nuts: Larry O’Brien, who is the current mayor, ran last election on the platform of being the successful CEO of Calian Technologies and having nothing to do with politics previously. He also said he’d freeze taxes which, if you had only half a brain, was obviously impossible.

His primary opponent was a nice guy named Alex Munter, who had been in politics forever, is young and energetic and refused to make a similar ridiculous promise. He deserved to win, but he didn’t.

Voters should have gone running on the fact alone that O’Brien looks just like Mr. Clean, but they were sucked in. Lots of people really liked the idea that he would freeze their taxes, not thinking ahead to the services they rather like from the city, like garbage pick-up and drivable roads. They also liked that he had no political experience. This latter one drives me nuts. I see the same thing happening with Hilary Clinton now. People actually consider experience in their chosen fields to be a bad thing. They are now tainted, apparently.

Translate this to any other field and you’ll see how ridiculous this is. Let’s say you need to hire an accountant and you have two options – a guy who has 10 years experience in accounting and a guy who has none, but was great at fund-raising, would love to give accounting a try and he’s sure he has ‘fresh’ ideas. Who should you hire? Let’s go for the guy who knows nothing! That’ll be a fun experiment.

This experiment, electing Larry O’Brien, hasn’t been working out so well. To many people’s surprise, he’s trying to run the city like he ran his company, which means he wants all the power and all the say and everyone else just says, “Yes sir.”

But the best part is that he’s just admitted that he actually has to raise taxes to keep the city running. The only people who are shocked by this are the idiots who voted for him. They are feeling all betrayed now, but they should actually be kicking their own butts for being so stupid as to have believed this was possible. I suspect Larry actually thought he could pull it off, but since he’d never been in politics, he had no idea what he was talking about. Huh, turns out it is helpful to have experience. Go figure.

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Coming up in our next installment, I talk about how my dog Jasper avoided having all his hair buzzed off. You just never know what you are going to get at chez just making it up.

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Man, summer went fast. When I was a kid, it went on for ever and ever. But I’m old now and zip – all gone. I know I’m supposed to love it when the kids go back, but I don’t so much. I like the freedom of late bedtimes and sleeping in and going off on day trips. I don’t feel like we did all we wanted to this summer.

And I hate hate hate the homework grind, and the driving back and forth, and figuring out when the spoiled rotters will eat for lunch (day one here and already Maya wouldn’t eat anything we had).

Boo doesn’t start for two more days, as they are having each kid meet the teacher individually first. This is a waste for us, as the teacher has know Boo since she was an infant (and Asher was in her class), and every time we saw her at school since then, she’d run over to Boo and say, “Are you going to be in my class next year yet?”

But at least we get two days of mommy/no-longer-a-baby bonding time. As we walked Jasper at the off-leash park, with Boo biking wildly ahead, I wished she weren’t going in two days and I’ll be back to reading my paper as I saunter after the dog. I like our discussions. I don’t think I’ll cry when she goes, as for us the break has been gradual rather than abrupt, but I’ll miss her being around.

That wasn’t what I planned to talk about, though. What I wanted to mention was school supplies. Dreaded school supplies. The weirdest thing happened to me this year. To start with, the school did not send insane lists. I’m used to lists requiring camera film, paper towels, boxes of kleenex, ziplock bags, rags, 80 sharpened pencils.

These ones didn’t. No paper towels or kleenex, only 20 pencils. I can’t figure it out. And every year they all ask for 4 tennis balls (to stick on chair legs to quiet them). I can never figure out what they did with last year’s tennis balls. But this year, only one kid’s list had that (I’ve never sent them in anyway).

The school supply gods continued to smile down upon is as we headed to the store at the end of last week to buy what we needed. I expected there to be a mob at the place, as I’ve always experienced in other years. But it was downright quiet. And pretty much everything was easy to find and – get this – we got everything we needed. Just like that, in one place and one visit. I walked out in shock.

Actually, I exaggerate. We couldn’t find one thing – some particular notebook that could NOT have coils. No coils, got it? Everywhere we looked, there was the book we needed, but coiled. Maya said, “Why are they asking for something that doesn’t appear to exist?” I explained, “Because they want to drive us crazy, honey. They always have to put one impossible thing on the list each year, just to make us nuts.”

But I am a veteran school supply shopper now, and I don’t fall for it. I bought coiled anyway. Ha! I spit in the eye of the system!

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