Monday, August 30, 2010

Books for All

Every so often, I surf over to Ima on (and off) the Bima to see what’s new with Phyllis Sommer and her family.  When I last checked in, it was the first-day-of school for her kids, and she was offering a chance to win a $10 giving card to Donors Choose to anyone who left a comment about his or her favorite back-to-school tradition.  And so I wrote:
Yup, I'm with Jendeis [the previous commenter]'s all about the notebooks. I just bought a new one last week for my grad school class -- Race, Politics and the Media -- that starts next Tuesday.
As someone who rarely wins anything, imagine my surprise when I received an email a few days later from that said:   
Great news! Phyllis Sommer made a donation to -- and would like YOU to choose how to apply the funds.
And so, with Phyllis’ generosity, I just selected a classroom in Florida to be the recipient of books at all different reading levels so that every child in Ms. H’s class – no matter what his or her reading ability – can discover the joy and magic of reading!

Thanks, Phyllis!  And thanks, too, Ms. H!  With your guidance and instruction, may your students discover and nurture a love of reading that lasts a lifetime!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tante Mina Redux

Earlier today, I received the following email from my Aunt Claire:
Dear Jane,
Brian and Carolyn are here for a few days. I was showing Carolyn some old family pictures and came across this one of Tante Mina, which I scanned and am sending to you as an attachment. In the picture, which is dated 1959, Tante Mina (at age 80) received some kind of honor at the Home of the Daughters of Jacob. She is standing with Abe Ribicoff (at the mike), who was the governor of Connecticut at that time, and later became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, in President Kennedy's Cabinet.
Since we just spoke about her a few days ago, I thought that you might like this picture.
I am not sure of my scanning ability, so let me know whether you receive the attachment intact.
Shabbat shalom and love,
Aunt Claire
In fact, the first version of the photo she sent did not come through, but as you can see, the second one most certainly did.

Not only am I pleased to see this photo of Tante Mina, but I am most impressed with the technology skills and persistence of my aunt!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Summer of Remembering

With my mother’s death earlier this summer, I’ve become my family’s “Keeper of the Yahrzeit List.”  So, while some of my friends may be having a summer to remember, I seem to be having a summer of remembering.

First it was Grandma, my mother’s mother, whose yahrzeit falls on July 25th.  She’s in my heart always, and in my writing frequently.  You can read some of my reminiscences and reflections about her here and here and here.

Next was Uncle Irv’s yahrzeit on August 7th.  He too has been the subject of my musings.

Tonight is Tante Mina’s yahrzeit.  My sister Amy is named for her—Leah Meryl—but I didn’t know anything more, so I asked Aunt Claire, my mother’s sister.  Here’s what she had to say:
Tante Mina was a cousin. I don't know how she was related. She was a very short lady and we always used to measure our height against hers. At a very young age we found ourselves taller than her. To know her was to love her because she was so sweet and kind. She was widowed at an early age.  I never knew her husband.  She was rather poor, and as she got older she arranged to go to a Jewish home for the aged. She was very happy there; she loved the arts and crafts classes and also volunteered to feed those people in the home who were unable to feed themselves. She was a "gutte neshumah," a good soul.  We try to remember her because there is no one else to do so.
And so it is that earlier tonight I lit a yahrzeit candle (that’s it up there on the left) for Tante Mina.  As I think about her on her yahrzeit, may her memory--like those of so many others--be a blessing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Elul Musings

Two years ago at this season, I wrote this: “with each Elul, each Simchat Torah "Bereshit" and each seder-concluding "L'shana ha-ba-ah b'Yerushalayim," our tradition graciously offers us an opportunity to seize a new beginning, a fresh start, a reason to look forward.” You can read the entire post here

This year, it is difficult for me to seize the opportunity offered by Elul and more than a bit challenging to set my mind to the spiritual housekeeping and moral accounting that go along with the late summer season. As I peer into the first year of our family’s life without my mother, it doesn’t look fresh, promising or hopeful. Instead, I know (even without seeing the specifics) that at each holiday, each celebration, each family event, it will be harder than ever to “shake it off and step up.” And so I’m especially interested in what others have to say during this annual ritual of spiritual preparation.

Come along with me and check out these Elul musings:

Ima on (and off) the Bima is blogging daily during Elul here.

Inspired by his colleague and friend, the Rhythm Guitar Rabbi also has committed to blog daily (starting on 2 Elul). You can find his musings here.

Sign up for Jewels of Elul and each day during the month you’ll receive a thought-provoking reflection from a different writer on this year's theme of "beginning again."   (Although I usually find these contemplations to be thoughtful and meaningful—I’ve been receiving them for a few years now—I must admit that today’s words from Lady Gaga didn’t do it for me. Perhaps I’m just too old or too out of touch with pop culture to appreciate what she had to say?…)

Know of other Elul musings? Come on, share them with the rest of us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Freelance Editor for Hire

I know that in this economy, I'm lucky to have a job.  And, I'm even luckier that it's one that includes medical and dental insurance, a retirement plan, and generous holiday and vacation time, as well as compassionate co-workers (most of them, anyway) in a comfortable and collegial work environment (on most days, thank goodness). 

To be perfectly honest, however, from my perspective, my job does not include financial compensation that allows me to contribute to my personal savings on a regular basis, to be as generous as I would like with my tzedakah or to splurge every once in a while on a Broadway show, a vacation (even a short one that's not too far away) or an "I'll-pick-up-this-one-just-because" dinner with a friend or two.  And, while my modest lifestyle and carefully watched pennies help ensure that I am able to meet my expenses each month (despite my very deliberate decision to live in outrageously-expensive Manhattan), the chasm between my take-home income and my monthly outgo grows wider and wider and wider with each passing year.

Therefore, I recently decided to go in search of some paid freelance editing opportunities.  I’ve been doing it (the unpaid variety) for years, informally and successfully editing friends’ resumes, business correspondence, including cover letters, web content, blog posts, funding proposals, training materials and the like.  Using existing material (and the Track Changes function in Microsoft Word), I gently and carefully smooth out the bumps, retaining the original voice and message, while making the prose cleaner, sharper, easier to read and more powerful.  Now, I’m hoping to parlay that expertise and experience into something a bit more formal (aka the paid variety).

By way of testimonials, I can offer you these:
From the blog roll on The DCC:  “JanetheWriter Writes -- She is Good, You Should Read This One Too”

From a friend whose document I edited last week:  “I LOVE how you edit!! I had torn that letter apart, but you were way better than me!! :)"

And lastly, this from me (I know, that’s not a credible testimonial, but this is a start-up business and it's the most I can offer at the moment):  When it comes to the edits themselves, I always urge my friends to “take ‘em or leave ‘em.”  More often than not, though, they “take ‘em.” 
Want to know more?  You can read lots of my other work elsewhere on this blog, as well as here and here.

And so, my loyal blog readers and Facebook friends, I turn to you.  Should you or someone you know need a freelance editor, I’d be extremely grateful if you’d play matchmaker and help make a shidduch.  Just drop me an email with all the relevant details, and I’ll take it from there.

Thanks, friends, for helping me set things "write."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer Reading…and Summer Movies

For a variety of reasons, this hasn’t exactly turned out to be the summer I envisioned. No, there haven’t been a lot of lazy days suitable for plopping tired feet in cool grass and getting lost in a page-turner, no time for digging toes aimlessly in sand packed hard by endless laps of white-green, bubbly-soft ocean foam that occasionally sprays the pages of a book, not even an afternoon sipping green tea and flipping pages amidst the traffic and noise of a sidewalk cafĂ©. No matter, though. I have managed to find two books that—if this was a different summer—would make cameo appearances in each of these scenes.

The first, lent to me by a friend, tells the story of the Nazi occupation of the Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. (Yes, I’m behind in my reading and just discovered this treasure that so many others enjoyed years ago, many in book groups.) Filled with colorful characters and a riveting story in a simpler time, when letter-writing was still an art (and a primary means of communication), the end of the page turning came all too quickly for me. If only there were more letters (and more time to read them) from Juliet, Sidney, Sophie, Amelia, Dawsey and the rest, I think I’d have kept turning pages indefinitely. Perhaps a movie will be forthcoming? I hope so…

I’ve written about the second book before (once here, and once here), but never actually read it. And, even though I’ve finished only 20-some of its 460+ pages (excluding the notes and the index), it, too, is already riveting, filled with colorful characters and, perhaps best of all, is a true-crime murder mystery. In this case, though, the mystery isn’t as much a whodunit as a how’d-they-solve-it, much of which remains to be revealed in the unread pages. And, although I find that the movie often isn’t nearly as good as the book, a fictionalized account of this story was made into a 1959 flick starring Orson Welles and E.G. Marshall. Hello, Netflix