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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sad Lad

This is Sam.*
Look, look.
Look at Sam.
Sam is sad.

Mom says Sam must read.
Sam can read.
He reads That Fat Cat.

Sam does not like That Fat Cat.
He wants to read big books.
Sam is too old for baby books.

Teacher says Sam must read.
He must read That Fat Cat.
Then he will learn to read better.
Then he can read Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Sam is sore.
He has read That Fat Cat many times.
He does not think he will learn now.
He does not like to hear
how far he has come.
He is tired.

Sam is sad.
See Sam kick.
Sam is sad and bad and mad.

BasMelech is mad, too.
She must be mad --
She wanted to teach Sam!
BasMelech is sad and mad.
And sometimes bad.

BasMelech wants to be good.
She is not so good.

BasMelech's friends say
Don't beat yourself up.
You do some things right.

BasMelech does not want to do
some things right.
She wants to be perfect.

BasMelech's friends say
Being a little good is OK.
Then you will learn to be better.
Someday you can be a tzadeikes.

BasMelech is sore.
She has been mediocre for a long time.
She thinks she may never be great.
She is tired.

But she gets up every morning
And tells Sam
to go on trying.

*Name changed to protect minors.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Out of the Box

I have a confession to make.

Despite gleefully participating in all shidduch ranting sessions, I have only once in my life filled out a profile.
Or tried to, at least.

It was one of those forms where you have to check off the boxes that describe you.
Great, I thought, multiple choice is so easy.

I got stuck right after the "Name" field.

The first question wasn't. It was simply a list of labels. Affix to forehead as needed.
I thought for a while.
I was neither chaseedish nor misnagdish.
Neither yesheevish nor heimish.
Not BT, MO, or OCD.
I was relieved to see "Other" as an option. I guess these shadchanim are not as narrow-minded as I'd assumed. I put a check in the adjacent box and wrote "Shomer Torah uMitzvos" in the space provided.

Next, they wanted to know what I was looking for.
The choices were dazzling: Learner, Earner, Learner-earner, Earner-learner, Bunsen-burner.
I checked "Other" and penciled in "Yerei Shamayim."

Next: Levush.
It didn't even give choices. Help.
I pondered the question and finally answered "refined."

Then they wanted to narrow things down by location. It was comforting to see that there is, in fact, life outside of New York (it's in south Jersey, apparently.)

The following part was a little game: I was to read a list of character traits and put a mark by No, Somewhat, or Very as they apply to me.
Outgoing: Well, I'm not the life of a party, but I certainly do go out. I checked "Somewhat."
Friendly: I have friends, but I don't talk to strangers much.
Smart: I'm no dummy, but not Einstein either. "Somewhat."
Materialistic: Hum. They're really hoping to weed out the Japs with this one, aren't they? Let's see, I'm not spoiled but I do live a physical existence. "Somewhat."
By the time I reached the bottom of the list, I had conclusively determined that I must be a somewhat unexceptional personality.

Place photo here: Optional.
Thank G-d. I don't think I had teeth yet in my last decent photo.
This might have something to do with my being the only photographer in the family.

Having at long last completed the entire form to my satisfaction, I proudly returned it to the friend who had given it to me. She took the liberty of proofreading it before passing it along to the interested party.

She got stuck right after the "Name" field.
"BasMelech!" She gasped. "You can't check off other! They'll think you're some kind of kook!"
"Listen, you want the truth or what?"
She sighed and continued reading.
Uh oh. I know that tone.
"What are you looking for?"
"My keys. Always."
"Stop it! Do you want someone who's learning or working?"
"I already wrote down what kind of person I'm seeking. Read."
"I did." Deep frown.
"So? What he does from 9 to 5 is irrelevant. Go on." She did, but not without a fight.
"BasMelech... Levush means, like, 'black hat' or 'long jacket.'"
Oh, now I get it. I kept my original answer.

In the end, she decided not to submit my profile. Thought it would ruin my chances or something.
As for me, I've stopped doing them. Wouldn't want to get into any more trouble, now...

I guess I just don't fit into a box.
("BasMelech! You can't say that -- people will think you're overweight!")
And I wouldn't want my chatan to, either.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Artists Revealed

The J-Blogosphere Arts Exhibition is getting fewer hits lately, so I guess it's time to roll the credits:

B4S drew the swordfight.
I did the fork, the old city sketch, and the painting of the girl.
Corner Point did the Van Gogh and the grapes.
Dreamer's are the kosel watercolor and collage.
Erachet did the comic.
Sarah did the tricycle.
Sharkbait did the soldier, the animals, and the one that DOT mentioned (how else to describe it?)

Great work, everyone! Thanks for sharing!

Here's how the next one will work:
Email me anything you'd like to share, anytime.
When I have a bunch of stuff, I'll post it and send out an invitation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chanuka wrap

Lit all eight candles tonight.
That was quick.

Just to stick my foot in the door before the last moments escape, I was listening to a shiur, "Lighting the Fire Within," by Rabbi Naftali Elsaz. He brought out the uniqueness of Chanukah from an interesting angle: Usually, when something pure comes into contact with something impure, the pure becomes tainted and does not elevate the impure. However, the Chanukah miracle is described as "temayim beyad tehorim" -- the pure overcame the impure. He went on to attribute that to the enthusiasm and zeal of the Hasmoneans.

The first thing that came to my mind after hearing this was blogging. I often wonder whether I belong here, whether the benefits outweigh the concerns, whether my pure intentions are enough to stand up to the tum'ah that is the internet. This didn't bring me any closer to a resolution, it was just a point to ponder...

I didn't hear it in the speech (could be I spaced out through that part...) but I think this is a message inherent in the menorah as well. Darkness doesn't kill a flame; rather, a flame dispels the dark. The pure overcomes the impure. Chanukah.

Then I mused it another step: The reason for the above is because darkness in essence is the absence of light. Once the light is kindled, the darkness vanishes -- it was nothing all along. I don't remember the specifics, but I vaguely recall learning something in the past about tum'ah being the removal of purity... that fits.

Finally, one last link to take us back to Chanukah: The above all fits because Yavan (ancient Greece) was hevel, nothing. Nothing is the absence of substance. Whereas previous oppressors fought for a different holiness, pushing their gods on us, the Greeks were godless. Beauty for its own sake, the world is perfect and they seek nothing higher. So instead of having to fight to destroy something, all that's needed is to bring back substance to end the vacuum. Light the menorah and fill the dark void.

Here's something real that we can take with us into life after Chanukah. It's time to put away the silver menorah and become a human menorah. By simply doing the right things, the Torah things, you are actively purifying the world. And you don't necessarily need to debate with a missionary to do it.

"Me-at min ha-or doche harbay min hachoshech" or something like that.

The highlight of my Chanukah, though, was getting to meet some people in real life. I felt bad for those who couldn't make it, so I took a picture to share some of the fun with you. Take a look to see who turned up!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The J-Blogosphere Arts Exhibition

Happy Chanukah, all!

Thanks to the following bloggers for their contributions (in alphabetical order):
Corner Point
and a friendly lurker who identifies himself as
Now see if you can guess who’s who before I reveal them!
(in about a week)
No revealing comments if you have privileged information :-P

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Introducing, for the very first time...

The J-Blogosphere Arts Exhibition!

Show off your own talents while viewing masterpieces created by your blogfriends!

Not an artist? There's no better time to start! Try your hand at expressive doodling and display the results for our admiration.

There is no competition involved, just a fun game in which bloggers try to identify who created each piece. You will receive no criticism unless you request it.

Please help spread the word by putting the banner on your blog and linking to this post. My readership is pretty limited, and I'd really like this to be an opportunity for all of us to widen our circles and make connections throughout the J-blogosphere.

Rules for entry:
1. Scan or photograph one or two of your favorite pieces. May include any art forms, including photos of 3-D works.
2. Remove your real name from signed pieces.
3. Upload your image to a hosting service such as, resizing the image if necessary.
4. Email a link to think613 at yahoo dot com. Specify whether you would like your piece to be critiqued or just admired, and sign the email with your blog ID.
5. Deadline for submissions is Shabbos Chanukah.

Monday, November 12, 2007

On a lighter note: Your daily dose of unapologetic cynicism

First up: Why grammar is so important
(at least if you're a journalist)

I read this headline the other day:
"Dolphins Help Shark Attack Victim"

Who's being helped here? I thought it was a warning that dolphins aren't as friendly as we'd like to think... After skimming the artice, I gather that the dolphins helped the victim of a shark attack, otherwise known as the shark-attack victim. As a popular poem once stated, it's all in the dash.

Next: Things you should never name your kid

I once read a study in an extremely monotonous psychology textbook. The researcher quoted was Edwin G. Boring. I kid you not. Now, in my humble opinion, if you have to have a surname like "Boring," don't name your kid Edwin G! I have nothing against the Edwins of the world... but the whole thing together sounds rather offbeat. And one more thing -- If you're stuck with a name like that, you probably shouldn't be writing long studies that college kids will be forced to read. Try stand-up comedy. (I wonder what the G. is for?)

Another psychology study was reported by Gonas and Yonas. Again, two perfectly normal names. But what is the likelihood of their both becoming professionals in the same specialized field, and then getting together to do their research? Sounds more like a performing troupe: Come see Gonas and Yonas, the amazing human tamers!

While we're on the topic, my friend the public school teacher [at least] once had a foreign student whose last name was difficult to pronounce...without sounding profane. That was the year she began calling her students by their first names ;-)

And finally: Engrish as a second language

I tried to photograph the toy package that sported this line, but didn't have a real camera on me so the text didn't come out clear. Just trust me. I've seen worse, but this one really hit my funny bone:

"The intelligence development of the beneficial child"

And some of the things you can build with it: "Tick-ock" (the picture didn't help for that one) and "Cosmos snake."

The picture below is not mine, but it came from a website that swears it's real:

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'd always said it would never happen to me.
I watched my friends, classmates, and even my mom succumb to the craze, but I wouldn't give in. It wasn't even a struggle; I simply had no interest.
So what happened since then that turned me, sensible ol' BasMelech, into a compulsive OnlySimchas clicker?
I have my suspicions.

It started one day when I heard that my [former?] best friend got engaged.
Heard, as in, through the grapevine.
Hey, I used to be the grapevine!
To add insult to injury, I'd just spoken to her a couple of days earlier, and she didn't say anything.
Now, we weren't in touch much lately, but still...

Then the same thing happened with another two friends. Though neither was as dear to me as the first, it had this snowball effect on my brain...

Then I got this email with pictures of a baby (about a month old) that I didn't recognize. The name was familiar though... Turns out she belongs to my former roommate. Again, we weren't so close, but come on -- roommates! She'd lived with me almost as long as she'd been living with her husband when that baby was born! I didn't even know she was expecting. And you can't even use the privacy excuse here as with shidduchim.

Then another email: "Bas-Melech, why didn't you tell me that [other, closer friend] had a baby two weeks ago?!" Um... she did? Boy or girl? Again, I didn't even know this was coming... Get this straight: This is the friend who personally emailed me photos from her wedding the night of because I couldn't make it halfway across the world to attend. Even if she was too busy becoming a mom to spread the joy, you'd think a mutual friend would have told me. Especially since, until I was stuffed into this cave (when did that happen?) I was the national yenta, town crier, and official news-spreader.

You get the picture. After months of silence, this went on for about a week straight. I never thought I'd be desensitized enough to say this, but I'd had enough. Even the richest, most delicious chocolate can make you nauseous if you gorge yourself with it. (Correction: you can never have too much chocolate. But just to make the point...)

Now, of course I only want to be happy for all of them. But it's time for the enchanted princesses to take a reality check: If you want me to share your simcha, start by sharing your simcha with me. And if you don't, then don't be surprised that I'm finding it hard to jump for joy at last week's seconhand recycled news.

It came to the point where I was afraid to pick up the phone. One of my last remaining single friends left me a voice mail that she wanted to reach me ASAP...after not returning my calls for about a month... I grabbed two squares of chocolate before returning the call, and I was still panicking.
"Hi, BasMelech!" she said, with a distinctive lilt to her voice.
"Don't say it." I snapped. "I know already."
"Oh." Pause. "How?"
"Ohmygosh, are you serious? I knew you sounded too happy!" I accused her outright.
"What what?"
"Nothing, just wanted to let you know I'm in town for Shabbos, I was hoping we could get together..."
What a waste of calories.
Thank heaven for single friends.
But wait a minute... what's she doing in town for Shabbos?!
No, really, I'm OK. Just give me a couple of weeks for the paranoia to fade out. Meanwhile, if you don't find me here often enough, I'll be busy checking OnlySimchas.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A worthy read

As overtired as I am, I could hardly put this book down. It's intended to be a children's book but I think it should be required reading for adults who have anything to do with kids, for they will certainly encounter several Joeys in their lives.

The book is written in a humorous, juvenile style, yet I got choked up a few times while reading it and once almost cried. It's just so real. Though I enjoyed the style, I actually didn't find it funny at all.

Joey is a regular, bright kid with serious ADHD. His father also had it and it was never addressed, which led to a sad family situation. The book takes you into Joey's mind for a most dizzying rollercoaster ride, all the way to a proud finish. (can't say more because I didn't finish it yet myself, but took a peek at the last page...)

Give it a look, and it will give you a look into a whole new world.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I was so afraid
the day before...
the moment you entered my classroom
you changed
from a puzzle to solve
a dare to win
a pot to fill
a case to crack
a mountain to climb
and became
a spirit to nourish
a soul to treasure
a child to love.

Saturday, November 3, 2007



Bas~Melech is slowly losing her grip on reality.

It’s the only way to explain how I could possibly spend an hour hours days significant chunks of time browsing through art supplies when I have lots piles mountains of work waiting at home.

See, I have these delusional fantasies that hanging around in discount art stores in questionable neighborhoods, discriminatively comparing erasers or something, makes one a better artist. So every so often, when I’m feeling frustrated and down, I go and carefully scrutinize pencils, testing them on the scratchpads with an artsy flourish. Hey, $0.50 may be a bit pricey for a nice sheet of paper for a project that in all likelihood will never be completed, but it makes for a very affordable shopping spree therapy. I don’t treat myself too often...

The remaining question is why I’m sharing this with you. The answer, of course, is because I’m not near an art store now. In other words, this is pure procrastination. I actually mentally posted about 3 times in the last week, but of course I don’t remember them anymore... Just had to stick in a word to let you know I’m still alive out here, though I was feeling a bit under the weather this past week and opted to sleep instead of blog. Yeah, I know, my priorities are so messed up sometimes..

Friday, October 26, 2007


Does this make you nervous? I haven't decided what I think yet...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Here It Is

OK, so you've all been thinking...or not... "How much longer can she go without posting about shidduchim? We've all done our share already!" Well, here it is.

Now, I know some people will be getting mighty defensive after reading this, so before I begin, please realize that this was not written about you or your brother. As far as I know, I've never met you or your brother. This is just an observation about random people I have met, which you can't possibly disagree with because it's an individual experience. If you've had different observations, you're welcome to comment about them... nicely.

Next disclaimer: This is written in the boys' favor. I am not trying to put anyone down; rather, to offer a suggestion that will be of benefit to everyone.

Here goes:

You may or may not have heard that there's a "Shidduch Crisis" going on. I'm not here to debate about phraseology, but to provide a small slice of solution.

I've been to places where singles gather, and noticed a certain trend. Though there were approximately equal numbers of eligible women and men within the same age range (i.e. let's not get into demographics, statistics, and math here), I couldn't see any reason why the two would be attracted to one another.

The women, for the most part, appeared well-dressed, intelligent, and sociable. Those with whom I conversed were educated, motivated professionals with active lives. The conversations were fun, stimulating, and easy.

Quite a number of the men, to put it quite bluntly, were nerdy and unappealing. (I have nothing against nerds, by the way. I consider myself to be just shy of the highest order of nerdom.) They sat or slouched around, exchanging such profound words as, "Hey, nice to see you again -- what brings you here?" and "Um." Many appeared somewhat unkempt and their clothes were out of date, or worse, uncoordinated. When they're not attending singles events, they barely move from their cubicles. Think Dilbert, personified, times 30.

Those of you who know me can attest that I'm not terribly big on fashion and small talk. But everything in this world has a place. How on earth are these two groups supposed to relate to one another?

My proposal is that every person who finds themselves unmarried at a stage of life when most of their peers are married (do we really need to debate the age cutoff?) should see a life coach. There should be committees set up in major Jewish communities to do the dirty work. Best case scenario, the coach will see that they are a normal dating candidate and put them in his/her "little black book." If not, the coach should advise the person in practical matters such as how to dress and act in social situations and how to get a life outside your office.

Many of these people would make wonderful husbands and fathers, if they could only find a wife. Honestly, which of these sophisticated, motivated, active women can these shlumps be expecting to marry?

*Basmelech steps down from soapbox. You can throw the tomatoes now*

Destiny and Me in the Amazon

Okay, okay, that's, not the Amazon. Actually, it's Half, not Amazon at all. But this way just sounded so much cooler :-P If my site won't get clicks for "A Day in the Life..." than maybe it will get them for "Drama and Danger in the Brazilian Jungle." But I digress.

Last week, I ordered two books for college. At least, I thought I did. I was quite pleased because one turned out to be very inexpensive and for the other, I found a real bargain -- a "like new" for the price of an "acceptable." Yes, I'm easy to thrill.

A few days later, I suddenly realized I still hadn't gotten any confirmation by email. I'd forgotten to check for the initial confirmation from the website, so I was waiting patiently for the individual sellers to let me know they'd shipped my books... Anyway, there was no record of my purchase anywhere online. Apparently, I hadn't bought any books at all.

Hang in there, this isn't a rant.

So I went back to the book's page, and of course the "metziah" wasn't there anymore. I was disappointed, but of course I knew that it was "min hashamayim"...

It wasn't until about three days later that I realized what happened.

In the time between my first would-be order and the second, I found out that I really didn't need one of the books (the one that was always cheap). However, the amount I was supposed to spend had already been determined a little over a month ago, on Rosh Hashana. So, HaShem saved me the trouble of trying to store, resell, package, and mail an extra book later on by arranging for me to spend more on the other book instead! Yes, the cost difference balanced out just about exactly.

How cool is that?

Thursday, October 11, 2007


One of my favorite scenes in children's literature is the opening of Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie), which describes how all mothers spend the night sifting through their children's brains, sorting things out, taking out what doesn't belong, and repackaging it with love. He words it very sweetly; I don't do it justice.

Anyway, I need that. There is just way too much on my mind to handle. It doesn't have time to rest, refresh, and sort things out.

Which is why I'm taking a week-long vacation from the computer, beginning now.
Don't leave, I'll be back iy"H -- I still have plenty to say and I really enjoy your company. It's just that the only way I can free up some space right now is to completely leave the computer besides for the barest work necessities.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already, you can scroll down and see what you've missed because I've been posting up a storm lately.

Take care and have a wonderful Shabbos and next week!


Every so often when passing these signs, I regress to my teen years and have this compulsion to place my palm firmly on the wall.

Though the appeal has faded considerably, today was one of those times.

I spent a number of years doing this and learned something very valuable and significant: The MTA uses such fast-drying paint that it's not worth wasting paper on those signs. I reckon they do the painting in the wee hours and post the signs just in case someone actually does come by the minute after they leave. But still... I find it very amusing that out of innumerable handslaps, I never once encountered wet paint in the subway system. The closest I got was a little sticky, but not fresh enough for the paint to transfer. I remember getting so confident at one point that I would just lean right on the wall without hand-testing it first. (I'm not sure if it was a miracle or just the logical result that I never had an undesireable result)

So why am I telling you all this?
What's my point?

(Were you expecting an answer? How should I know?)
Maybe it's so that the next time you absentmindedly lean against a post in the train station only to realize as you're leaving that it says "WET PAINT," you won't waste much time checking your back.
Now this is something else that struck me as funny:

Notice how they painted this little strip of what, when everything around it needs the job more.

And finally, just to put this all into perspective:

(PS: Why, with every time I insert a picture in blogger, does my line spacing throughout the post increase by one line?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Parshas Noach - Rebuilding

At this time of year, I sometimes think of the psychological suspense novel I will never write:

Humanity has been all but destroyed. You don't know how because the book begins after the fact. The world looks exactly the same as it does today. A lone person emerges from his bunker to find himself utterly alone. He immediately commits himself to hunt down and communicate with all living people. After a few months, he and six other people who have found each other reach the conclusion that they are the only live human beings on Earth.

Thus begins a new phase of history: Adapting to the new existence. Whether or not humanity will continue is up to them. They will need to cooperate in order to survive... if they decide it's worth surviving. At least one person believes all is lost. The others are driven to rebuild, enamored with the opportunity of starting fresh. Will they manage to repopulate the world? What will their kids be like? (Imagine growing up knowing that the future of humankind literally depends on you.)

Seven people with different personalities and no way to escape the group other than death. They will just have to get along. Will they be able to reach effective decisions about vital matters with their judgement impaired by emotions? Will they ever learn to truly love one another or will there always be unpleasant feelings simmering under the surface?

Meanwhile, supplies are running low. How will they harness an entire history worth of technology to serve them? Remember, while modern innovations speed processes and make production easier, they are designed for mass production and these seven pioneers have to make it work -- or starve. Not your classic desert island situation at all.

What if someone has a preexisting addiction? Will they have to go crazy satisfying it or will s/he be able to snap out of it in this time of need?

At some point, of course, they will also meet up with another individual or group who has been living in isolation all these years... who may have had an entirely different approach... so we see an alternate outcome. But now that they have met, how will this change things? Will they choose to remain together?

On a somewhat unrelated note, also on the parsha though:
We learn that the world was dispersed for the sake of its own survival.
Notice how the world is shrinking by leaps and bounds these days?
Seems almost everyone is connected again.
In other areas, too, it feels like people are reverting to the pre-dispersion state of affairs. Hamaven yavin.
Just some food for thought...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome

Maybe this is why I prefer blogging... I have this habit of saying things wrong. Not necessarily saying the wrong thing; it just comes out wrong. Or maybe just gets heard wrong.

Then I say, "Ouch. I don't think I'll ever open my mouth again... for the next two minutes."

Oh, and my face turns this lovely shade of pink, it's actually quite cute. When you're not the one behind it, that is.

And now for a classic episode of "What did I do this time?!" with your accident-prone host, BasMelech:
It's Simchas Torah and I'm in shul, right in the middle of the social event of the year. The problem is, there's this conflict in schedule with davening and the Torah reading. I came for the latter events and find the talking quite disturbing. I notice that many of the socializers aren't even holding a siddur or chumash or anything, maybe they don't realize that the services resumed already after hakafos...
So, the generous-hearted BasMelech decides to share the light. I offer an Artscroll to the lady sitting next to me, with some comment about how enlightening it is to be able to follow the readings in English...
And she is very insulted. Very. "And what makes you think I don't know Hebrew?" with such a face...
I smile sweetly and say something along the lines of, "Oh, I just love using this edition because...blah blah something" and quickly retreat to my own readings just in time for the umpteenth aliyah. [hot light on pink face, fade to black]

(I suddenly discovered that I had to go home to put up lunch around that time... a little earlier than planned, but my father's shul always ends earlier and of course I didn't want anyone to have to wait... Yeah, that's me: BasMelech, escape artist)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Just when

you thought



(rats--I wanted a specific picture and I can't find it online...)
(It's Perfection, in case you can't see -- remember that game?)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Israel Photos

Some of my friends are in the Holy Land now and I am deeply wishing that I were with them. For now, the closest I can get is posting some pictures from my last visit... Enjoy! (Besides the first, these are all unedited...the pure, unadulterated scenery of Eretz Yisrael exactly as it came off the camera)

I have many more favorites, but they take so long to upload, so I'll save them for next time...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Prayer of a Yiddishe Mamma

OK, maybe I should have gone into graphic design. Or accounting, programming, OT, architecture, pharmaceutical research, nursing, or one of the other fields that drew me when I declared "Education/Special Ed" as my major.

That said, it's too late to turn back now, at least until June.

No, it's not that bad. I'm just tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling incompetent though I know it's not my fault that 'they' didn't give me enough to work with in advance. Now I just need to pull through until Succos and then I get a week to relax and prepare my game plan so we can start fresh after vacation.

No amount of college courses could have prepared me for how very difficult and heartbreaking special education is in action. Just the same, no one would have been able to make me believe -- before -- that I'd start feeling "nachas" so soon. I feel like throwing a party every time one of my kids does something that was hard for him or learns something new. Then I come home and beat my head against the wall until an idea falls out for what I can possibly do tomorrow!

OK, now for the story. I do (usually) have a reason for my titles, you know:
....So it's Wednesday night and to say it's been a hard week wouldn't do it justice. There's only one day left but I don't think I can make it that far. I want to prepare so I can get some sleep already but every time I think about having to go back in the morning I just start crying helplessly...
....So I come in on Thursday sketchily prepared, at best. Guess what? My lil' Nightmare (Dreamer -- you like this better than Mr. Attitude?) is absent. My day goes great (relatively) and all the kids get full marks on their behavior charts for the very first time! At least now I know it's not just me, all those other times...
....Still on the verge of collapse, I practically float into the house and yell out the news I just told you: "GUESS WHAT?! My Attitude didn't come to school today!" It may be the first time my family's seen me smile since August.
....Mom doesn't look surprised. Instead, she calmly says...
...................."Oh, good. I davened he should be absent today."
Keep praying, Mom. Only nine months left...

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen: The pictures you've all been waiting for!
Sorry about the crummy quality. I didn't have a real camera handy.

Anyway, as you can clearly see, the sign on the door says "Miss Melech's class: Where every person shines" and each kid's name is written on a star.

And here is the famous, theme-coordinated behavior chart. Each student has his name on a rocket and is trying to "Reach for the Stars."
And on the way, they have plenty of opportunities to earn... get this... ready?

How cute is that? The kids totally don't get it but the point is that it cracks me up. I wish I had a picture to post, but I'm sure you can imagine the idea...

Anyway, when/why did this start turning into a personal chat blog? That was SO not supposed to happen! Oh well. Let me know how you like it. And by the way, vote in my poll on the upper right. I refuse to accept that I only have 6 readers with an opinion...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Sorry, no real post. I am too tired and have too many other things that must get done.
But meanwhile... check out my cool new toy. It gives me all my blog stats, including which cities my visitors come from! (Hey, Venezuela, are you listening?) Much easier to use than other site meters I've played with, the site layout is great, and I think there's more you can do with it but I haven't had a chance to do much except sign up.

Anyway, here it is.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

When...? (Continued)

After reading my previous post, I realized that it probably gives the idea that I was wondering "When" one becomes experienced. Or "When" "They" will invent a quicker way to do so. However, that is not the case at all. I already know what it takes to become experienced. Whether I will still be sane at that point is a different issue entirely.

No, my real question is "When" do all these other teachers find time to both prepare elaborate lessons and decorate their classrooms? After finally receiving my class assignment (more on that later iy"H) and curriculum two days before school, I went into a frenzy of planning, while the other teachers sat around calmly discussing their "themes."

Now, this is the first I'd heard about classroom themes. As far as I was concerned, I'd reward the kids for being good and punish them for being bad, and spend most of my energy getting some learning done. Suddenly, I found myself thrust into competition with these party planners lest I become the boring teacher (gasp!) Their behavior plans sounded like a very complicated board game involving points, cards, rewards, tokens, "menchies," and professionally designed posters, for starters. If the kids can understand and follow that, don't try telling me they're learning disabled!

Anyway, to make a long story short, I walked into the first day of school like a zombie, but it didn't matter because my classroom looked beautiful. Maybe I'll post a picture after I take some.

The other question my objective self asked after reading my last post was, "How do you know the veteran teacher has green eyes?"

I will tell you how I know. Because the veteran teacher, being experienced, was already teaching back before whiteboards became the mandated standard in schools, and she had to match the chalkboards. Now, I think I am the only person who ever noticed this, but most of my good teachers had those grayish eyes that could turn any color -- Whether you were in a classroom with a green board or a blackboard, she looked like she was created for the scene. And when those gray eyes stared you down, they looked like ice and made you freeze.

Now, my theory doesn't mean that you can't be a perfectly good teacher with brown eyes, but I definitely think blue and green-eyed teachers have an edge. Don't try talking me out of this one. (My eyes, of course, are like mud.)

So, how did my first day go?
Actually, that was a trick question -- you all know now that I spaced through it because I'd spent the whole night before designing my "theme."
Anyway, you'll just have to stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


There has got to be an easier way.
My only coherent thought on the eve of my first major teaching assignment.
I would like to go to sleep now and wake up in a year or so to find myself a tough, experienced professional. With a look that can kill.
I simply cannot believe that after 5,757 years of human innovation, no one has come up with an alternate route to becoming experienced. It is my new goal in life. When I accept my Nobel, I will let you, my faithful readers, know so that you can proudly say "I knew her when..."

Until then, I sit quaking in the corner of the teachers' room, marveling at the Veteran Teacher. You'd know her in an instant: The poised woman clutching the gallon-sized coffee cup in one hand and practically untouched curriculum guide in the other. When she turns her green eyes toward you, you want to disappear and find it difficult to resist a sudden, irrational urge to apologize. Finally, after the student who had been standing behind you slinks away, you are astounded to see her gaze soften and the wicked smile turn friendly: You are one of us now. It must be true because she said so.

(Possibly to be continued. First I need to go whip the kids... um, prepare lessons.)

Friday, August 31, 2007

For several nights
I wondered why
you chose to cry
on me.

I had nothing
to do with you.
I felt so unable
to fill your many needs
that instead
I stayed away.

So why
would you be interested
in selfish

Yet you looked so
and miserable...

So I sat down
at your side
with nothing to say.

Perhaps because
I wanted so hard
after all these years
I saw

There is something
I can give you.

Do you need a hug?

A barely visible nod
and suddenly
you were in my arms.

(Had I kept you waiting
too long?)

What next?
I don't even know you
After all these years...
But finally
perhaps because
I felt for you
I knew

The only thing to say.

"It's OK to cry."

I don't know
what you cried for
that day:
Fear of the future?
Longing for the past?
Something else, maybe.

So my tears
were for only one thing:
No longer a stranger
I cried
for the pain
of a friend.

and I'm still crying for you.
May the day soon come
when there will be no more cause for tears
and those of us who shared pain
can truly be part of the shared joy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Looking from afar
I saw
that which
you haven't
you can't
and I do.

Now I know:
While I talk,
You pray;
While I think,
You feel;
While I do,
You are.

They call me
the caregiver
and you
the invalid.

But as I look
after you --
You teach
my clouded eyes
to see.

And as I lend
my hands to you --
You fill
my hollow heart
with love.

Looking from afar
they ask
and how
I "do it."
It's a fair trade -
and I got the better deal!

For A and E -- I am so lucky to know you. Thanks for all your love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random Photos

I've been dabbling a bit in photography, and I'm pretty proud of some results. Unfortunately, most of the best ones involve people whose faces I'm not about to post online. Here are the rest.

Please respect my privacy -- if you think you recognize any of the pictures and may know who I am, kindly keep it between you and me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

School's out!

Those most loyal and faithful readers who have been regularly peeking in to look for my next post have surely noticed my brief absence.

Since I am familiar with the angst of one who feels the compulsion to check frequently for new posts by favorite bloggers, I have decided to spare you all the guesswork and divulge some of my summer schedule.

I am not guaranteeing posts at the following times, but if I manage to get in some posting over the summer, this is when it will be up and you don't need to bother checking in any other time:
> A day or two before 9 Av
> Around August 12
> Just before Rosh Hashana

By Sukkos time, I will probably be back on a normal schedule, whatever that is...

Have a wonderful summer! I'll miss you!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Final Exam

Technically speaking, I had all the time in the world to study.
Practically, it boiled down to about two days.

It was an extremely important test. So great, in fact, that for a while I couldn't even bear to think about it. So I didn't.
But time marched on anyway, and in the back of my mind I knew I would have to take the test regardless.

So I made up my mind and took out my notes. I also had to get everything ready. In order to ensure an optimal studying experience with minimal interruptions, I had to make sure I had something to drink and nosh handy, as well as paper and pens in case I had to write anything. I then adjusted the air conditioner, turned on some soft classical background music, and brought the cordless phone so I wouldn't have to go running for unimportant phone calls. Then I had to replenish my drink and nosh.
Almost ready.

So I finally sat down to study, skimmed a few pages, highlighted some facts to memorize later. The information was swarming before my eyes; I feared I would never understand it all.
Studying is hard work.
I needed a break.
I mean, no one is perfect. If you do nothing but study, your brain will explode. Everyone needs a break to refresh themselves now and then. I'd be right back.

Well, it took a little longer than expected. You know, one thing led to a next... but I'm back, and now it's really time to hit the books.

I breezed through a couple of chapters that I was kind of familiar with, then I came across one real stumper. I read a couple of paragraphs, but it just wasn't working.
Oh well, I guess I'll just skip Unit 4, then.
Come on, they can't really expect you to know the whole entire book, can they?

By about 5AM, I was completely exhausted. I felt like I just couldn't keep my eyes open another second! But, knowing that the final would begin in just a few hours no matter how prepared I would (or wouldn't) be, I pushed ahead and studied for all I was worth.
Don't know why I bothered. At that hour, it was taking three times as long as it should have and there were times when I was sure my eyes were fooling me...
But I just had to do whatever I could.

Because ready or not, it was time for the final.

Might sound like a cute anecdote, typical 10th-grade style. However, I urge you to think of the Final Exam which we will each face after 120 years, iy"H. Each part of this little essay corresponds to a common tactic of the yetser hara (evil inclination) who tries to distract us from our true task. What will we answer when the Examiner asks what we did when we should have been preparing? "I spent my nights blogging... some were very interesting, you know..."

Monday, June 4, 2007

Long time no see

It's been way, way too long.
I could tell you all the excuses
but you know me too intimately for that.
The truth hurts
but it's all there is.
I got busy
put you on hold
meant to come back
you know how it is...
I'm sorry
I didn't take the time to listen to you
didn't tend to your needs
figured you'd still be there
same as always
when I'd have time.
But I didn't.
And you weren't.
And I went on
without you.
I didn't mean
to drift away.
But drift I did
without you,
my best friend,
to guide me.

Then one day
sounding faraway
as if through a mist
and down a long tunnel
I heard your voice
My heart leapt
With a pang
as I realized
I barely recognize you anymore.

But now, I promise
I'm listening
We'll catch up on old times
And this time
We won't just keep in touch
because I'll never let go of you

It's been way, way too long.
Oh, Neshamale
(Dear Soul),
how I've missed you!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Stormy Day (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from previous post --
please see below for the beginning of the story.
Heading for shore at a steady clip, Jacob hunkered down in the face of the biting winds. Waves now slapped noisily at the sides of his boat, nudging it from side to side like a fast-paced amusement park ride. He took down a sail and struggled to steady his craft as it was tossed about on the frothy water. Sandy debris hit his face and stung his eyes, but he couldn't close them for a second. Finally, when things seemed steady for a moment, the exhausted sailor ducked beneath deck to catch his breath. It wasn't much of a reprieve, for he knew that the ship could not remain without its captain for long.

Shifra was teaching with full force when the notes started to fly. Unperturbed, she decided to continue, until the whispering started. Though she tried to keep her hand firmly on the controls, it wasn't long before the children were getting on each other's nerves, not to mention her own. Here a child out of her seat, there a voice calling out: someone's copying my paper, she pulled my hair. Shifra found herself offering punishments and rewards at a frantic pace, snapping at the children she used to care for so tenderly. Unable to bear the chaos any longer, she gave them all seatwork and left them for a moment. Standing outside the classroom, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and counted slowly to twenty. Her hands clenched in tension and every nerve in her brain was screaming, but she knew she couldn't leave her children unattended for a second longer.

Jacob couldn't remember how he'd made it this far; every muscle in his body had been thrown into survival mode for the last few hours, bypassing his conscious entirely. Awareness first washed over him when the docks pulled into view. The water was calmer here; though the sky was dark and the sea frothy, Jacob felt as though he'd left the sounds and fears of the open sea far behind. His adrenaline rush slowed, and he suddenly felt all the day's exhaustion coming at him full force. After the high activity of the morning, it was ridiculous for those last few minutes to be so difficult, yet Jacob had to muster every hidden store of energy he didn't have just to maneuver his vessel up to the dock. Ready to collapse with relief, he tied fast his boat just as the first raindrops began to fall.

The afternoon seemed like a blur to Shifra. Even with all her tricks, she never quite succeeded in recapturing her unruly class, but after putting her brain on autopilot she at least managed to keep herself forging on. Finally, an irresistable peek at the clock which had been moving unbearably slowly all day revealed that there were only fifteen minutes left until dismissal. She almost couldn't believe it; it had seemed she'd never make it this far. Sure, her head was pounding and her ears would probably never be the same, but at last this ordeal was almost over -- and she'd survived. Yet for some reason, it took every last ounce of her energy just to stay upright during those final minutes. After the children had burst from the room, Shifra was left to force her hands to keep packing away her things. She was conscious of every step on the way home, as her own feet didn't seem to be cooperating today. In a daze, she turned her key and fell through the doorway just as the first tears began to fall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Stormy Day (Part 1 of 2 or 3)

Darn, my title sounds like something out of a primer.
Don't worry, the rest is already practically written.
I just don't have time to stick around and type the whole thing.
Just had to post some of it in time for this awesome weather.
Jacob had been out fishing for six days already. There was little in the world that he loved more than the wide open expanse of sea, the cold, salty air, and most of all the feeling of total power over his boat while still cradled in the hand of G-d. Even so, though he knew that once on land he would yearn to be at sea again, the week of long hours and intense work had taken their toll on him. Worn to the bone, Jacob longed to be at bay again and knew it was time to turn back.

Eight and a half months into the school year, Shifra was feeling depleted. Make no mistake; she loved each of her students dearly and never planned to stop. One of her favorite places in the world was at the front of her classroom, breathing life into the children and ruling with majesty, all the while marveling at the G-d given potential in each gem. Born with a love of learning and a thirst for challenge, she delighted in preparing engaging lessons for her young charges. All the same, lately her heart gave a little jump of joy each time she marked off another day gone towards summer vacation. The months of late-night planning, tense parent conferences, increasing administrative demands, and bottomless piles of papers to be graded had been steadily wearing away the Shifra that had been before.

When Jacob awoke on the seventh day of his trip, he knew with his keen sailor's intuition that something was brewing. The sky was still fair as dawn crept up, but the clouds at the horizon were swirling ominously, as if the angels were at war. Jacob's senses jumped into alert. He could feel a front coming in as the ripples on the water picked up pace. Even the nets he pulled in felt ornery today, seeming to have more tangles than usual. Although the air was still warm, a small shiver ran up Jacob's spine. He'd weathered nasty storms before, but each time was newly exciting and frightening all over again. Though young, Jacob spoke with the authority of a seasoned seaman when he asserted that no two storms are alike. Yet, though he spoke like a seasoned seaman, young Jacob was terrified of the coming squall.
As soon as Shifra walked into her classroom on that sunny morning, she knew something was amiss. The weather was beautiful outdoors and stifling inside. Though the students still had that innocent, freshly dressed look (some still bleary eyed from their early wakening), stirrings of restlessness were already reflected in their darting eyes. Shifra instantly switched gears to battle-ax mode. She would have to be really tough to survive the dread spring fever. Despite her background of many successful lessons and fulfilling days, Shifra was anxious today. It was only a matter of time before the situation would erupt.