Sunday, December 28, 2014

The #RhodiaPaperProject is Creating a Pen Snob

I think the #RhodiaPaperProject is transforming me into a pen snob.

Either that or it's providing weekly confirmation that my preference runs toward thicker points and wetter inks, which leads me to believe it's time to invest in other than a disposable fountain pen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Learning to be a Friend is a Lifelong Endeavor

Although I have not read Letty Cottin Pogrebin's book about being a good friend to someone who is ill, I've learned a few dos and don'ts in the last few months.  In no particular order, here are some of them:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Exaclair Papers: Two Weeks' Samples For the Price of One

I've fallen behind in my review of the Exaclair paper products that arrive regularly in my mailbox.

The Week 7 samples are:
  • The Classic Rhodia Meeting Book 
  • The Rhodia Meeting Book 90 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How I Spent My Two Days Off

I have a friend who regularly tells me I need to get out more.  He's right.

Last week, my sister had business in Washington, DC, and I went along for the ride.  I can't wait for a chance to go back.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I Remember…

Last year, December 14 was Shabbat at the URJ Biennial in San Diego.

I was up early, eager to fulfill my Biennial responsibility as a Torah guardian.  In this role, I was responsible for carrying one of the many scrolls that would be used in the service from the storage room to the site of the service, keeping an eye on it throughout, and, afterward, returning it safely to the room where it would remain with the others under lock and key until it was returned to the local congregation from which it had been borrowed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Clairefontaine Classic Notebook Paper: Pros and Cons

As they have for the last six weeks, a number of different paper samples once again arrived in my inbox from Karen Doherty, vice president of marketing at Exaclair, USA, as part of the Rhodia Paper Project.  Included were three different pages of Clairefontaine Classic 90g bright white paper from spiral bound notebooks.

Most appealing was the silky smooth feel of the paper, which had a solid weightiness to it, without being too heavy.  It stood up well to thick, liquidy inks (fountain pen, liquid Flair and Bic Atlantis), which were the most pleasant to use.  Requiring more "push" -- and least appealing of the writing instruments -- were a Paper Mate mechanical pencil and a Bic four-color retractable medium point ballpoint.  Squarely in the middle on the ease-of-use scale were a Marvy LePen and a Uniball Jetstream ballpoint pen.

Although the paper itself was the same in all three samples, my favorite was the lined version because of its perforation to remove the scraggly left-hand edge when pages are torn from the notebook.  Neither the lined paper with the margin nor the French ruled sample includes this perforation.  Least appealing was the French ruled sample.  I found its many vertical and horizontal lines to be a distraction -- both when writing on it and, later, when reading what had been written.

Looking forward to receiving the next batch of paper samples, which should be on their way to me shortly.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

(Paper) Size Does Matter

This week's Rhodia Paper Project brought me one sheet each of 80g white Rhodia line ruled paper in these sizes:
  • No. 8, (3 x 8 ¼”)
  • No. 10 (2 x 3″) 
  • No.16 (6 x 8 ¼ “)
  • No. 19 (8 ¼ x 12 ½ “)
The paper itself is a crisp white with horizontal violet lines.  The No. 16 and 19 samples also include a red vertical line indented from the left margin, making it reminiscent of the filler paper I used in elementary school -- minus the holes.

Smooth to the touch -- without being glossy -- the sample paper took a variety of inks extremely well, from no-name ballpoints to medium point felt-tip and liquid Flair pens, and from Marvy's LePen to Bic's four-color, medium point retractable ballpoint pen.  None -- not even the Pilot Varsity fountain pen -- showed through on the reverse side.

My personal preference with regard to size is the No. 8, which would be extremely useful for all kinds of lists:  wish lists, to-do lists, grocery lists...and more.  I'm sure I could find countless uses for the No. 16 -- in the office for recording meeting notes, phone conversations and like, or as a catch-all paper source in my tote bag for notes, lists and observations on the go. The dimensions of the No. 19, I think, are too large for anything but a stay-on-the desk pad. Originally, I thought the dimensions of the No. 10 made it too small to be useful, but in reconsidering the sample, I'd love to see this size as a sticky note -- in both lined and unlined versions -- which would make it endlessly useful.

Once again, the Rhodia Paper Project has provided interesting and unique paper samples to test, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to offer thoughts and feedback.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Chemo's Silver Linings

Even though I'm not the one with cancer (pu, pu, pu), I can tell you that there's not much to like about chemotherapy.  In fact, it epitomizes "#cancersucks."

And yet, Amy and I have managed to find a few silver linings in the chemo routine we've established in recent weeks:
  1. Java Girl, a wonderfully cozy and comfortable coffee shop that's quickly becoming our standard "I'll meet you there" spot.  Where else can you get brewed chocolate pretzel flavored coffee?  Yum!
  2. The opportunity to shut out the world for a while -- just because we can.  
  3. The hard-working chemo nurses, ever willing to answer questions and kibitz, even as they carry out their serious (and lifesaving) work.
  4. Panera  Bread's comfort food-filled, "Pick Two" lunch that we sandwich (pun intended!) between the chemo session and our hunkering down for an afternoon of quiet togetherness -- reading, chatting, and answering friends' emails and texts, all from the comfort of the couch.
When they're finally over, sometime in March, I doubt that either of us will miss the chemo sessions themselves.  We may, however, miss some of the simple pleasures and human connections -- the silver linings -- that we've made a part of the process.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More Papers, More Pens, More Testing

In yesterday's mail, I received paper samples for The Paper Project Week #4, which included an Exacompta index card (Pastle/Violet/Grid 205g) and a sheet from the Clairefontaine multiple subject notebook (Pastle/Violet/Grid 90g).

Although I appreciated the way various inks took to both paper types, and I was happy enough with the medium smooth texture of the notebook paper, I especially enjoyed experimenting with the index card.  And, as I have throughout these weeks of experimentation, I tested a variety of pens -- from lowbrow "no names" to drugstore "cheapies," before moving up to a Sharpie, a few PaperMates and a Bic or two, and finally my Pilot Varsity fountain pen.  No Shaeffer, Mont Blanc, or Lamy here....yet!

In this round of testing, I enjoyed the pastel shades of the samples -- pale blue on the one from the notebook, and pale green and baby pink on the index cards, all with violet grid lines -- which were a welcome change of pace from the ubiquitous white and ivory that are the norm from day-to-day.

Having now participated in The Paper Project for nearly a month, I increasingly find that regardless of the paper, I much prefer pen points (and inks) that are thicker and smoother -- Pilot Varsity, Liquid Flair, and the "regular" Flair, for example -- and thus seem to require less pressure when writing.  Similarly, I generally appreciate grid lines and do not find them to be a distraction in my work.

I look forward to ongoing opportunities to sample -- and write about -- Exclair papers in the weeks ahead.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Desktop Does Not Move

This afternoon on my way home from work, I ran an errand at Staples, where I couldn't help but snap this photo:

I also posted it to my Twitter feed with this caption:  Really, @Staples?!? You can do better. 

Almost immediately, @Staples tweeted back at me:   Oh no! What was the issue? A small selection?

To which I responded, somewhat exasperated:  @Staples It's S-T-A-T-I-O-N-E-R-Y. You know, with an ENVELOPE.

The conversation ended with this: @JanetheWriter Thanks for letting us know!  

I'll be curious to see if (and when) the store corrects the sign...and you know I'll be checking on it.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Goldilocks and the Exaclair Paper Samples

nce upon a time there was a writer named Goldilocks.  She was fascinated by quality writing paper, and lucky to receive three different Exaclair papers to sample as part of The Paper Project Week 2.

The first paper was the Clairefontaine Triomphe (white/blank 90g), which was incredibly smooth – almost slick or slippery – to the touch.  It was a clean, bright white color, with no underlying pattern or design to get in the way of Goldilocks’ doodles.  However, Goldilocks didn’t really like the way various inks (a Marvy Le Pen, several PaperMate Flairs, and a Pilot Varsity fountain pen) took to the paper.  They seemed just to sit on top of the glossy surface, without penetrating into the fiber.  After a few strokes, Goldilocks put down her pen and went on to the next paper sample.

The second sheet was the G. Lalo Verge de France (white/blank 100g).  It was a tad bit heavier than the Triomphe and although the color was described as white, in comparison to the Triomphe, it actually was ivory.   This paper had a rougher surface than the Triomphe, and some of the inks bled into it, although none soaked through to the reverse side.  When held to the light, vertical “lines,” approximately an inch apart were visible on the G. Lalo Verge de France paper, as were horizontal lines that were so closely spaced that they looked like corduroy.  When she tried to write on the G. Lalo Verge de France, the points of her pens seemed to get tripped up in the paper’s rough surface and the experience wasn’t a smooth one.  On this paper, too, after a few strokes Goldilocks put down her pen and went on to the next sample.

The last sample Goldilocks tried was the Clairefontaine GraF it (white/blank 90g).  Smoother than the G. Lalo Verge de France, but not as glassy as the Triomphe, she loved the glide of each pen over the surface, and the way the ink took to the paper.  The color, too, wasn’t the I-need-sunglasses-when-I’m-using-this-paper white of the Triomphe, but a muted white – almost a gray-white – that was exceptionally easy on the eyes.  Ink after ink, pen after pen, Goldilocks kept doodling on the GraF it, until she knew that it was the paper that was just right.

The End.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Plowing Through to a Better Self

November 1, 2014

Dear The Mums,

Today was Shabbat Lech L’cha, your favorite parashah.  I’m sure Cantor Dubinsky didn’t know that when, during the hakafah at minyan, she asked me to recite the Torah blessings, but it seemed like an appropriate coincidence, so I nodded my agreement. 

It seemed appropriate, too, that following minyan and Torah study, I'd arranged to meet Lil’ Zigs at a (highly recommended) wig store near Columbus Circle, setting us off on a journey to ChemoLand, a place we do not know.

I think I need to back up, though, and fill you in.  In mid-August, just a few days before her birthday, her annual sonogram (which, in addition to a mammogram, she's been having since you died, even though she pays out-of-pocket because her insurance doesn't cover the cost) picked up something that, although it didn't show up on the mammogram turned out to be breast cancer.  Needless to say, she was blindsided, and I was stunned by the absolute irony of the diagnosis, given that I’m the one with the BRCA mutation.  In fact, to ensure that this was truly “sporadic” breast cancer and not the result of a hereditary mutation, we met with a genetic counselor, and LZ had genetic testing beyond the Multisite 3 BRACAnalysis we'd both had in 2010, which tests for only the three Ashkenazi founder mutations.  (When my results turned up positive for the BRCA2 Ashkenazi founder mutation, and LZ was negative, no further testing was done.)  Thankfully, her more recent comprehensive BRCA analysis and BART test both came back negative.  A cruel roll of the dice, gave her this cancer, and lumped her together (no pun intended) with the 12% of women across the board that randomly get breast cancer within their lifetimes, although some might suggest that she was at increased risk given her family history.

In early September, she met with the same surgeon who did my mastectomy and we learned that the tumor was small (1.6 cm) and that it was estrogen receptor and progestin receptor positive, as well as positive for the HER2 protein.  This last characteristic made it more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.  By the end of that appointment, there was a lumpectomy on the calendar for September 25 – which was Rosh Hashanah this year – the first date that worked for both the surgeon and Lil’ Zigs, given the crazy travel schedule she maintains for her wildly successful business.

Two weeks after the lumpectomy, we met with the surgeon again and learned that the tumor was totally contained, that the tissue surrounding it was clear of cancer, and that the lymph nodes were not involved.  The upcoming chemo is insurance against any microscopic spread in light of the tumor's HER2+ profile.  The first session is scheduled for a week from today and the A-C-T regimen looks like this: 
  • Adriamycin and Cytoxan once every other week for four cycles (eight weeks)
  • Taxol once a week for 12 weeks
  • Herceptin and Perjeta – which are antibody therapies and have no side effects – every third week during the 12 weeks of Taxol, and continuing every third week for a year.  These two drugs are specifically used as insurance against the return of HER2+ tumors and are especially effective when used in combination with chemotherapy.
She's got appointments scheduled in January with a plastic surgeon and a radiation oncologist so that she can figure out next steps -- mastectomy or radiation.  That decision is hers to make, but in the the meantime, she's got plenty of time to ponder the pros and cons of each.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Lil’ Zigs wants no part of anything pink, no support groups, no coddling, and no fussing over her.  She's planning to plow through all "this nonsense" as she says, so she can get on with the rest of her life. 

Nonetheless, she has cut back on her travel significantly beginning in mid-November, but in the meantime, she’s front-loaded a ton of business into this coming week (and the week following her first chemo session) and will be on 10 flights and in six cities during the next seven days.  Only when she returns from all that travel will we begin our journey to a place we do not know.

But, like Abraham, we are blessed on this journey. You are with us each day -- in our hearts and in our minds -- as we travel into ChemoLand.  We’re lucky, too, to have an abundance of friends – some we know and others we have not yet met – who already are sharing their time, their talents, and their expertise, so that Lil’ Zigs and I can go forth from all “this nonsense” to our new and better selves.

Miss you…love you,
~ Boo! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

So Many Notebooks, So Much to Write, So Little Time

For as long as I can remember, I've been taken with notebooks and writing implements. First it was my box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener. Later it was Paper Mate's Write Bros. stick pens, and black and white marble covered composition books.

As an adult, my tastes have evolved in this realm and in recent years, I've amassed a collection of journals and notebooks from Baron Fig, Rhodia, Fabriano, Ciak, Moleskin, Miquelrius and Ecosystem.  Thanks to social media, I've also discovered a community of like-minded souls at sites that include Notebook Stories, Office Supply Geek, My Pen Needs Ink, and others. Several of these sites offer opportunities to win product give-aways and much to my delight, I've been fortunate to win a few in the last several months.

The first was a Media Enhanced (ME) Journal by Quo Vadis, which includes a QR code on each page that, when scanned using the downloadable ME app, associates a specific photo, audio file, or video file with the written information on the page. Although I have not yet found a way to use this technology in my own life at the moment, I can envisions friends who might use individual pages to store recipes, including a photo of each finished dish. (Currently, the app allows only one photo or other file to be associated with each page, ruling out the possibility of showing a series of pictures to demonstrate, for example, how to braid a challah or frost a layer cake.) Collectors might find the ME Journal useful as a log for collectibles, and recording such information as date and place of purchase, cost, and other data, as well as a photograph for each item. Similarly, it might be used to maintain a record of the contents of a safety deposit box, a wallet, or a cabinet full of insurance or medical documents.

More recently, I won a reporter style  A5 Rhodia Webnotepad, commonly known as a "Webbie." Thus far, I love the slightly-darker-than-creamsicle orange cover and the soft, smooth Clairefontaine brushed vellum 90g paper, which is lined on both sides and micro-perforated at the top. The inside back cover includes a pocket that's about half the height of the Webbie itself, and the outside back cover includes an elastic band that extends around the short side of the Webbie, and sits in a ridge on the front cover, to keep the notebook closed.  

Although I'm not yet connoisseur enough to speak knowledgable about the paper's "tooth" or other characteristics, I can report in layman's terms that it is a joy to use. I particularly appreciate the way ink in bolder, thicker points (the ones I prefer) takes to the paper. The medium point on a Paper Mate Flair is especially smooth, but hands-down, my favorite is the flow of ink from the Pilot Varsity fountain pen. (I've been using one for the last few months, and once I'm accustomed to it, I expect I will "graduate" to a more traditional model that uses interchangeable nibs and bottled ink.  For now, the Pilot Varsity suits me well.)

In the meantime, though, stay tuned because just today, I learned that I have been chosen as a participant in the Week #1 sampling group for The Paper Project.  The paper samples should arrive in the next few days, and I'm eager to compare and contrast them, as well as to see how they interact with various pens and pencils in my collection.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rest in Peace, Leon Klinghoffer

When Leon Klinghoffer's name was read as part of the yahrzeit list at yesterday's minyan, I was reminded of this blog post that I wrote several years ago at this season.

Today, one day before the opening of the Metropolitan Opera's "The Death of Klinghoffer," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released this statement by Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, which will be featured in the playbill. 

May Lisa and Ilsa continue their sacred work to "educat[e] the world about terrorism, and put a personal face on the victims and their families." Most of all, may Leon and his beloved Marilyn rest in peace.

Friday, October 17, 2014

On the Soapbox...Again!

As we reach the middle of "Pinktober," I'm grateful for the opportunity, once again, to stand atop my BRCA-awareness soapbox, this time to discuss the recent press about whether or not all Ashkenazi Jews should be tested for BRCA 1/2 mutations.

Check out my latest post over at

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ashamnu, Al Cheit, and Barnes and Noble

Just as surely as my father and I chanted Kol Nidre, Ashamnu, and Al Cheit on Yom Kippur, so, too, did we spend time in Barnes and Noble on Saturday afternoon.  It is, as they say, "how we roll."

Our annual browsing in the Menlo Park bookstore began with Helen Rappaport's The Romanov Sisters.  Earlier in the week, my father had suggested he might want to read it, but after perusing it, he changed his mind, finding it to be too focused on the sisters' clothing, social events, and other "womanly" pursuits.  Once I chimed in with "Like a Russian version of Little Women?" we moved on to another table near the store's entrance.

There he found In the Kingdom of Ice, a book he has been eyeing for some time, but is awaiting the paperback edition.  Long a lover of books about exploration, many years ago, he turned me on to Endurance, the page-turner about Ernest Shakleton's Antarctic expedition, and more recently suggested two of Alan Moorehead's exploration volumes:  The White Nile and The Blue Nile.

Skipping the "Bargain Books," calendars, journals, and, of course, the cafe, we headed upstairs, where, much to my father's delight, we found this display table:

A Teddy Roosevelt groupie, my father currently is reading -- and thoroughly enjoying -- The Bully Pulpit, which was on prominent display there, and elsewhere throughout the store.  Among the other books on the table, several of which he's read were The Path Between the Seas, Franklin and Winston, Theodore Rex, and Traitor to His Class.

As for my reading pursuits, although I'm about halfway through The Emperor of All Maladies, lack of time and energy makes my progress slow, despite the fact that it's exceedingly well written and informative.  I do hope to finish it this fall, however, so that I can move on to another of the many books in my to-read pile.  With any luck, I'll work my way through at least of few of them in 5775!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Microwave Mishegas

This past Monday morning, the microwave in my apartment died.  No matter how hard or how gently I pushed the numbers on the keypad, nothing happened.  No beeps.  No buzzes. No breakfast. 

Already stressed a-plenty, I posted this status update on Facebook:
Dear Microwave,
Today you had to decide that the keypad wouldn't work? After I'd already added the water to my dry oatmeal and was ready to pop it in to nuke? Thanks to you, I've now got a few more things on my to-do list for today...including figuring out what I'm going to eat for breakfast tomorrow.
Thanks a lot, microwave.
~ Jane.
Once in the office, I called my landlord and although she offered to come into the city to replace the appliance, ultimately we agreed that I would purchase a new microwave, send her the receipt, and deduct the amount from next month's rent.  With that hurdle jumped, my Facebook status got this update:
I spoke to my landlord and have the OK to purchase a new microwave. Looking for 700 watts, white, all the usual features, online purchase (preferably from Amazon) so it will arrive tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.
Suggestions? Recommendations? 
Like anyone has time to peruse the internets for me....
Overwhelmed by the endless options and choices,  I immediately emailed two friends, "Coupon King" and "Zappos Queen," this message:
You're so good at this...and I'm so bad at it.
Microwave parameters:
  • White
  • No more than $100
  • Turntable
  • Easy to use
  • All the usual features...mostly I use it for heating and defrosting
  • Free shipping
  • Delivery asap -- tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest
What can you find??
Thank you!
Within seconds, "Zappos Queen" responded,  "I’m on it."

A few minutes later, this link to a microwave available on appeared in my inbox.

After quickly perusing the parameters for both the .7 cubic foot and 1.1 cubic foot models, I posed these question to "Zappos Queen":  
Have you ever heard of this brand?
Is there any reason not to get the smaller one?  It has to fit on the top of the refrigerator -- and I have to be able to get it up there.
The Queen responded in two separate emails.  First this:
No reason not to get smaller one.
Then this:
Was the best selling white microwave on amazon with 4 stars.
Don’t overthink just order and move on with your day.
To which I could only respond with this truly heartfelt message:
This is one of the 10,000 reasons I love you! 
By the time The Queen responded with a hearty LOL, I had already ordered the microwave and moved on with my day.

After all, I always do exactly what she tells me to do! ;-)  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#BlogElul: Return

While we humans are busy at this season, turning and returning -- to the selves we once were, to the selves we want to be -- the world carries on, spinning forward with its burdens...its wars, its famines, its diseases, and its other hardships in tow.

And so, too, do we.

We do not do this work in a vacuum.

Even as we hope and pray and promise and strive to be the best that we can, we do so amidst the burdens the world shares with us -- amidst hunger, cancer, unemployment, poverty, shame, drug addiction, child abuse, violence, family estrangement, alcoholism, financial hardship...the list goes on and on.

And yet, we continue to turn, year after year, to the place of return within ourselves, working to be the selves we once were, striving to be the better selves we know we can be.  Again and again and again, at this season each year, we turn and we return.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam for encouraging and enabling us to turn and to return, even as the world spins us forever forward on its axis.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year.  Shana tova u'metuka.  

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is the last in this year's series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

#BlogElul: Give

One of the definitions of "give," today's #BlogElul prompt, is a noun that means capacity to bend or alter in shape under pressure; elasticity.

This definition reminds me of a wall hanging in a friend's home that says:  I used to be an oak, but now I am a willow. I can bend.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam for giving us give enough to bend like a willow in order to weather life's storms.  

In the new year, may I increasingly recognize and appreciate my own ability to bend. Amen. 

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#BlogElul: Intend

I didn't intend to get so impatient with my Dad....I'm grateful we can do things together.

I didn't intend to get so frustrated with my colleagues...I'm grateful to have a job.

I didn't intend to get so overwhelmed with my overloaded calendar...I'm grateful to have a rich, full life.

In the New Year, I intend to be more patient with my Dad...and to keep doing things together with him.

In the New Year, I intend to speak the workplace and elsewhere.

In the New Year, I intend to schedule time for me, even if it's just to stay home and read...or do nothing at all.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam for giving us a fresh opportunity to be the people we continually intend to be.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#BlogElul: Hope

Worn down and worried, I nonetheless remain hopeful that 5775 will renew my spirit, my sister's health, and our family's joy in being together.

In the new year, may we once again share laughter, good times, and the safety that comes from unconditional love for each other.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

#BlogElul: Begin

Moses Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish scholar and physician had this to say about maintaining physical health:
Since it is God's will that a [person]'s body be kept healthy and strong, because it is impossible for a [person] to have any knowledge of his Creator when ill, it is, therefore, his duty to shun anything which may waste his body, and to strive to acquire habits that will help him to preserve his health.
Heeding Maimonides' advice, back in July two Weight Watchers friends and I began meeting up in the exercise room in our building's basement at 6 a.m. three mornings a week to walk (and talk) on the treadmill for 30 minutes.

Although this practice hasn't necessarily increased my weight loss, it has helped my body begin to convert fat to muscle, resulting in a more shapely shape (I don't think I'll ever qualify as svelte).  It also has enhanced my overall energy level, mood, and outlook.

This morning, the three of us got to talking about target heart rate and so after my cool-down, I entered my age and the intensity of the workout (percentage of the maximum heart rate) I want to achieve before letting the treadmill calculate my target heart rate.

Armed with this information, on Monday morning, I will, indeed, "Press go to Begin," walking my way to a target rate of 152 beats per minute, as well as to a healthy and strong body for the new year and beyond.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#BlogElul: An End-of-Day Haiku

Crazy, busy life.
Too much to do in each day.
Need a bedtime Sh'ma.

Lailah tov.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#BlogElul: Looking for Love

As someone who has yet to stumble upon my bashert, I'm always interested to learn how individuals who are one half of a loving couple met originally. Answers often include:  in college, online, at a bar, at a singles' event, sitting next to each other on a plane or train, or fixed up by a mutual friend.

Funny, nobody ever says, "I met my bashert on Craigslist."

That idea got me to thinking...

Cue the dreamy, I'm-leaving-reality music...
Dear Craigslist,

I know that in addition to making matches between buyers and sellers of furniture, apartments, cars and jobs, among other things, you’ve also got quite a reputation as a forum for people in search of casual sex, friends with benefits and no-strings attached relationships, none of which is of interest to me. However, tired of waiting around for someone to fix me up, and frustrated with Jdate,, eharmony and other more traditional online and offline venues for finding someone for a date (and maybe, just maybe, a great relationship over time), I’m turning to you in the hopes that you might be able to help me out here.   
  1. I’m 51, so when I say “fifty-something” or “age appropriate,” I don’t mean 28 and I don’t mean 63. Fifty to 57 would be great.
  2. I’m Jewish and although not religious in the traditional sense, it is an important part of my life in a liberal sort of way. Therefore, Jewish guys who still retain some attachment (even if it’s mostly cultural) to their heritage are most desirable.
  3. Although I’m not looking to get married again (at least not at the moment), I also am not interested in meeting guys who already are married or are not quite divorced. It would be great if you could limit your selections for me to guys who are fully divorced, widowed or single, in that order.
  4. I don’t have a specific “type” in mind when it comes to guys and I don’t much care about hair color, eye color or that sort of thing. At the same time, at 5’5”, I do appreciate guys who are at least 5’7” or 5'8". Please feel free to let your pool of candidates know that I’m height and weight proportionate (and stay that way with the help of the treadmill nearly every other day). I’ve got long, curly auburn hair, brown eyes and a great smile. I will be happy to send a recent picture (in which I am wearing neither baseball cap nor sunglasses) to serious suitors once we’ve exchanged a few emails and I expect that they’ll do the same.
  5. Much more important to me than looks, though, is that you do your best to send me a mensch. Of course I don’t expect perfection (I’m old enough and seasoned enough to know that it only exists in fairy tales and the movies), but I would love to spend time getting to know someone who is honest, gentle and kind, seriously interested in finding the right somebody and not into playing games. I don’t really care about how much money he makes, whether or not he travels annually to the Caribbean or how many electronic gadgets he owns. Speaking of electronic gadgets, though, if we do decide to meet and chat over coffee or a drink (my preference for a first get-together), it’d be nice if he’d turn off his phone and wait until later to check his messages and emails.
  6. I live and work in Manhattan and would like to meet a “local” guy. I’m also am open to guys who live in the other four boroughs, as well as close by in Westchester and New Jersey. However, Florida, Maine, and upstate New York are a bit out of the question. Some consideration of geographic boundaries would be greatly appreciated.
  7. I know that these are tough economic times, but gainful, satisfying employment is a big plus as are solo living quarters unless, of course, the guy shares space with his kids – either full-time or part-time. (Although I don’t have any of my own and am way too old to have any in the future--I’m 51, after all—I’m definitely open to having other people’s kids in my life and hope that the guy you send me has a positive, loving relationship with his.) 
  8. Although I don’t expect a response that rivals the Great American Novel, I do appreciate a few thoughtful, carefully written sentences about the guy you’re sending me. I’d love for him to tell me a bit about himself and his life, as well as what positive attributes he’d bring to a meaningful long-term relationship. Most undesirable in the response category are one-liners, canned text, photos with no words (and no shirts), and the totally out-of-context imperative “call me” with a phone number.
  9. I know you won’t necessarily send me a guy who’s a carbon copy of me (that’d be boring), but it would be great if he and I had some shared values. (I know, I know…this is Craigslist. What am I thinking?!) High on my list are smarts, honesty, integrity, intellectual curiosity, kindness, family, friends and other things money can’t buy. Please don't send me guys who lie, steal or cheat.
  10. Lastly, to make this thing really work, I hope you’ll be able to send me someone with whom I have that all elusive chemistry. Ideally, we’ll have an emotional, intellectual and physical spark that together we can coax into a wonderfully warm and glowing relationship that keeps us both from having to be in touch with you again for a long time to come (unless we’ve got an old desk or dining room table to sell!). 
Craigslist, I know that I may be asking for a lot here, but I’m optimistic that with these explicit instructions you may be able to come through for me, helping me bump into my bashert in the new year. Thanks for your careful consideration of my requests. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

~ JanetheWriter

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#BlogElul: Dare

Frieda Vizel is a daring young woman. Based on press coverage alone, I know that she and her young son left the Hasidic community in which she was born and raised, she started her own company giving tours in Hasidic Williamsburg, completed college, and currently attends graduate school.

Most recently, she was called for an aliyah, and marked the occasion with a shechecheyanu blessing: 
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,  shehechehyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
In the new year, may Frieda -- and we -- continue to be daring, pushing the boundaries of our own comfort zones and creating opportunities for shechecheyanu blessings in our lives.
Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

#BlogElul: Change

Having passed the half-century mark more than 18 months ago, I am, for the most part, comfortable with who I am, and with the skin I'm in.

Nonetheless, if I had my druthers and could make some changes in my life, I might attempt to be:
  1. Less impatient
  2. More relaxed
  3. More irreverent
  4. Less eager to please
  5. Less of a yekke
  6. More forthright
  7. Less gullible
  8. More outgoing
  9. More inquisitive
  10. More flexible
On the other hand, if I was able to make all these changes successfully, would I still be me in all my quirkiness?  Would I still be comfortable with who I am? Would I still be the one in my skin?

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#BlogElul: The Jewish Cellist

As regular readers of this blog know, my sister runs her own company, The Art of Perception, providing training to law enforcement and medical personnel, as well as other professionals in various fields to enhance their observation, perception, and communications skills.  She uses various works of art as the "data set," encouraging participants to describe -- objectively, concisely, and clearly -- exactly what it is they see.  

The following anecdote from one of her training session illustrates just how important it is to listen carefully, how dangerous it can be to make assumptions and judgments, and how necessary it is to step back and ask if we are justified in relying on those assumptions -- or if they cause us to misjudge or prejudge. 
Upon showing Thomas Eakins' The Cello Player to a roomful of law enforcement agents, the following exchange ensued:
Amy:  "What do you see?"
Participant:  "The man in that picture is Jewish." 
Amy:  "Well, that is a conclusion. What observations did you make to get to that conclusion?" 
Participant:  "That's easy; all musicians are Jewish." 
Amy:  "Well, now you have drawn two conclusions--that the man is a musician and that all musicians are Jewish. Walk me through your thought process." 
The participant proceeded to narrate her thoughts: "During WWII, the Nazis put Jews in concentration camps. In some of the camps, they formed chamber music groups so that when the Red Cross came through, they could see that everything was ok." 
Amy cut her off and said that in the painting, there was a man sitting in a chair playing a cello. Where did she see the Nazis, chamber music groups, or the Red Cross? 
The participant looked at my sister, irritated, and snapped back, "Well, you asked me what I thought of when I looked at the painting." 
To which Amy replied, "With all due respect, I did not.  I asked, 'What do you see, not what do you think.'"
We all have Jewish cellists in our lives. 

How did they get there?

What can we do to get rid of them?

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#BlogElul: Ask

Last year as part of #BlogElul, I wrote this post about whether or not I ask too much of myself.

More recently, various events in my life have been so stunning and, in some cases, so frustrating that the only question I find myself able to ask, isn't even one suitable for a "family blog."  More and more often, I find myself throwing my hands in the air in disbelief and uttering, "What the #!$%@^$#%?!?"

I'm not particularly proud that this is the question I've been asking (and I certainly don't expect an answer), but sometimes, it's just the most appropriate initial inquiry one can make.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

#BlogElul: Pray

You know that old Jewish joke about synagogue services?

You know?... The one where Schwartz says that Goldberg attends synagogue to talk to God, but that Schwartz goes only to talk to Goldberg.

In the world of worship, I'm definitely a Goldberg...and I love when we get to this part of the Shabbat service:
We sit in community:
elbow to elbow, eye to eye.
So close, perhaps, we brush against each other
as we move in prayer.
Ears filled with the voices of friends, teachers, fellow travelers —
who pray with us from the next seat, from across the room.
We come to silence.
Rhythm of words, shared melody, hushed.
Connected first one to one to all,
we now let go.
To be alone
with the Holy One.
To speak in mind, and heart, and soul,
but not with lips.
The prayers we weave together cannot replace
that private conversation:
God, our partner awaits us:
One by one,
a miracle.
Just God and me...and the hopes and dreams, fears and wishes, gratitude and praise that are in my heart.

Just God and me...alone together.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#BlogElul: What Does it Take to Awaken a Soul?

What does it take to awaken a soul?
How loudly must the alarm clock ring to be heard by one's innermost being?

Did I sleep through the alarm during the past year?
Did I hit the snooze button one too many times?

In the new year, how can I be sure to hear the alarm and, knowing what it means, to act accordingly?

What does it take to awaken a soul?

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#BlogElul: Understanding Isn't All or Nothing

Although there's not much in this video -- beyond shana tova and shana tova u'metuka -- that I understand, this lack of understanding doesn't detract from my ability to enjoy the lighthearted, joyful Rosh HaShanah message.  I take what I can from it, which, in itself, is a meaningful lesson for this season.

It is not possible to understand everything we encounter in our world. Nonetheless, to the extent that we can draw something positive or enjoyable -- no matter how small and no matter what it may be -- from our experiences and encounters, may we strive to do so, and may we help others to do the same.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.