Monday, March 30, 2009

sleep like a baby

as neurotic as am i often fall asleep on the subway on my way home from work . one of my co-workers says that the best sleep she gets is on the train.
once when i was on a train i briefly opened my eyes and noticed that everyone else was napping.
though i usually dont miss my stop if i nod off, occasionally i do. thats the worst. not only do i miss the stop, but i feel really groggy.
fortunately im not a restless subway sleeper, otherwise i would be finding my head on someone elses shoulder as i nap. very embarrassing. bubba might not like that.
i have found other subway sleepers heads on my shoulder. i usually wake them up and hope they dont have head lice.

10,000 hits!

my site meter has surpassed 10,000 hits! thank you for reading! its great to have reached this moment thanks to all of you!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Exclusive Blog Interview With Diana Spechler

I'm very excited to present to you dear readers this exclusive frum single female blog interview
featuring Diana Spechler author of Who By Fire .

FSF: What made you choose this topic for your book ?

DS : When I was a grad student, I wrote a short story about Bits Kellerman, a young woman who lives in Boston and whose brother, Ash , lives in Israel. At the beginning of the story, Bits hears news of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. She calls Ash and he doesn't answer. Throughout the course of the story , the tension lies in the question of whether or not Ash is going to call his sister back. At the end of the story, he still hasn't called her. I finished the story and included it in my thesis, but it continued to haunt me. Why didn't he call his sister? It was driving me crazy. So I returned to the story and started writing from Ash's point of view. Then I returned to Bits, and then to Ash, and so in. That's how the novel was born.

FSF : Did you set out to write a book with a Jewish theme or did it just evolve?

DS : When I started writing Who By Fire , I had a lot of questions about Judaism--specifically about how I wanted to practice it. I was somewhat obsessed.The great thing about writing is that it provides an acceptable context for obsessions. By writing this novel , I was (perhaps not totally consciously) grappling with the questions that were most important to me at that time. When I finished writing the novel, I was able to unburden myself of the obsession to some extent. So I'm not sure I set out to write a book with a Jewish theme so much as I set out to write about something that mattered to me.

FSF: What kind of Jewish family did you grow up in?

DS : My family is really different from the family in Who By Fire . The Kellermans are so disconnected from one another. In my family, when someone goes to Israel, that person calls home. Period. We're all really close. Also , Judaism and Israel were big parts of my life throughout my childhood. My siblings and I went to Jewish summer camp. Jewish holidays were and continue to be big and fun and loud. My parents, like Ben and Ellie Kellerman, met in Jerusalem in the early 70's, so my perception of Israel has always been tinged with a little romance.

FSF: How has your book been received by secular Jewish readers as well as Orthodox Jewish readers?

DS : Of course, since I was writing , in part, about the conflict between secular and Orthodox Jews, I worried that I was going to offend people. The truth was, though , my novel doesn't voice just one opinion. Some of the characters are religious. Others are not. Some of the religious characters are a little sordid, others are great. Exploring my characters, all of whom are flawed. People-- Jewish , not Jewish, religious, not religious--talk about books all over the internet , and for the most part, no one seems offended by my book. The consensus seems to be that its a good read. Of course, I very much approve of that consensus.

FSF : At the end of the book in the q & a section, you say that you have a brother who is an Orthodox Jew. What does your brother think of your book?

DS : My brother loves the book and recommends it to everyone who will listen. He's a good brother.

FSF: What is the biggest lesson you feel readers should take away after reading Who By Fire?

DS: I'm not sure there's a lesson in it, but my favorite compliments I get are , "Your book made me want to go to Israel!" and " I stayed up all night reading your book."

Thank you so much Diana for this blog interview.


A few months ago I read the book Who By Fire by Diana Spechler. Who By Fire is a book about a Jewish family named Kellerman that is torn apart by tragedy and their journey toward closure and acceptance. Youngest daughter Alena was kidnapped. Dad Ben eventually flies the coop leaving his wife Ellie to raise their two remaining children Bits and Ash. Thirteen years after their sister's broad daylight kidnapping Bits has become a free-spirited wild -child type and Ash has become an Orthodox Jew who is studying at a right-wing yeshiva in Israel. Mom Ellie is none too keen on her son Ash's involvement in frumkeit so she devises a way to lure him away. This of course is where the fun begins.

What I really loved about this book is that includes a character who is a baal t'shuvah written by a non-Orthodox Jew. The story is divided by chapters which alternate between the standpoint of Bits, Ellie and Asher, it is not exclusively the story of a new baal t'shuvah and how he copes with his non-frum family, its also the story of what non-frum sister Bits and non-frum mom Ellie think about the whole deal.

Had this book been written in the early 1970's Ash may have been a Zen Buddhist instead of a new baal t'shuvah. I'm so glad this book was written in 2008.

From Diana Spechler's writing it is obvious that she has a relative or a good friend who is frum . WHO BY FIRE is not another PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT or some misguided Howard Fast novel. Thank goodness. Its an honest exploration of secular versus Orthodox Jews. There is dialogue and contemplation without negativity.

Last but not least WHO BY FIRE is simply an intriguing story about family dynamics. I couldn't wait to see what would transpire while at the same time I didn't want it to end.


and the plot thickens....

for years ive wanted to attend a free gotham writers workshop at barnes and noble but i never managed to get to one. perhaps this is because they are free. anyway, a few weeks ago i attended a book reading at barnes and noble at lincoln triangle and i saw a big ad for the upcoming gotham writer's workshop featuring the author diana spechler whose book who by fire i read a few months ago. well... need i say more? i was an attendee. meeting authors of books i really dig is on my ten most favorite things to do list.

the gotham fiction writing workshp was amazing. though it was a teaser class, alot of solid writing exercises were featured.

since diana spechler was giving a fiction writing course instead of a book reading it was even more interesting. she spoke of her style of writing fiction instead of the plot of her fictional book. very cool. she said that her writing is very heavy on character development. i would agree.

after the writers workshop diana spechler fielded questions about the class as well as signed her book. im not sure if i was the only one in attendance who had read her book but i did tell her that i had read her book and that i liked it. normally i don't mention to authors that i write a blog, but in this case.... after taking a writers workshop i was compelled.... so i did. well folks ... my next few posts will include a book review of who by fire as well as a blog interview with diana spechler. TO BE CONTINUED....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


ive always enjoyed creative writing . ive also always had the penmanship of a brain surgeon . MESSY. typing on an old fashioned typewriter was a pill . it took me forever to type without looking.
im so glad computers are around now. they make writing so much easier. they make correcting typos so much easier. in this sense i am not nostalgic for the old days. i may be addicted to my computer, but my writing has increased and my typing has improved. yay technology!

Monday, March 23, 2009

i love you man

i saw the funniest movie i love you man featuring two of my favorite actors - paul rudd and jason segal.

the premise of the movie is that men tend not to have alot of male friends, especially if they are in relationships with women. paul rudd's character is engaged and is trying to make some same gendered friends. this movie is silly, but it is also REALLY funny.
rashida jones who is the daughter of jewish peggy lipton and black quincey jones plays paul rudd's wife. she is a brunette version of christine taylor of marcia brady fame. its nice to see another movie where the shiksa goddess doesnt get to play the wife of a cute jewish actor.
anyway, paul rudd's character meets many guys before he finds jason segal . their rapport is great as well as completely hetero.
i do admit that alot of why i enjoyed this movie was because i relish gazing into paul rudd's blue eyes , but seriously, if you need a mindless pick-me -up , this is the movie to see.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

thanks for the memories

having a good memory can be a blessing as well as a curse. i clearly recall my great-aunt who died when i was three, the score i got on my road test for my driver's license, eating popsicles at the end of the day at day camp and my first day at sleep away camp . i also remember having my wisdom teeth removed , being teased at overnight camp, and being brought to tears by those who i thought were friends. memory doesnt distinguish between positve or negative, it just remembers.

those who dont remember names also dont remember those who dont deserve to be remembered .

at work my supervisor is intimidated by me because of my memory. she of course is practically brain dead and has the memory capacity of a wood chip. i remember clients names and simple details . id rather it this way than the other way around, but i always try to downplay my ability.

im an encyclopedia when it comes to recalling men ive dated or met and trivia about them. the beauty is that im not trying to remember i just do.

people think that i read people magazine because i am up on celebrity info. i do not . who has the time? i just happen to recall details that interest me.

most who have poor memory abilities dont realize what they lack. i am grateful to recall what most may not, but for those of you who wont remember this post past five minutes from now, realize when you dont recall a pleasant detail it also means you dont recall a dreadful one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


i went to glatt mart tonight and i saw all of the kosher for pesach items. im totally in denial because as i walked through the aisles i was thinking to myself "isnt it early to have all of these pesach items on the shelves?"

Monday, March 16, 2009


the school that i went to for high school would always show the most graphic holocaust shorts . each year there was one worse than the year before. being the sensitive sort, it would give me nightmares. when i was fifteen i had a dream that when i opened the door to the school bathroom i was
walking into a gas chamber and in my dream i died. prior to having this dream i had always heard that if one dies in one's dream , one died. well folks, i can tell you that b"h this is not true. that was many years ago.
i dont know what the best policy is. showing very graphic holocaust footage is very important, but i dont think the purpose of showing this footage is for teenage girls to have nightly holocaust dreams. there must be some kind of balance. the school that i went to sure did not find it.
at this point in my life i try not watch too many holocaust films . if i do , i start having nightmares that the new york subway trains are cattle cars going to .... well, thats why i cant watch too much holocaust fare.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the power of music

the eldridge street synagogue on the lower east side has been fully renovated. it took 20 yrs for them to do this. its quite incredible. you can feel the presence of those who were there years ago when you are there. last night there was a free eli beer concert there. it was very enjoyable . the music was so empowering. since i bought my new mp3 player a few months ago i have really been getting back into listening to music, b"h. music is so essential to the soul. it has the power to totally transform ones mood.

Friday, March 13, 2009


one work issue that i always find difficult is having jewish co-workers who date gentiles. how can one be polite without making it seem like you condone their behavior? its easy to know what to say to someone when everything is theoretical, but when these are really people one knows, its a whole other bowl of wax.
i know that alot of people say that if someone wasnt raised frum what does one expect. they will be dating goyim . i dont really agree with this. there are plenty people that i know who grew up frum who have ended up dating non-jews. usually they are off the derech when they are doing this, but not always. sometimes someone is just lonely and then they meet someone who isnt jewish and though they are not going out of their way to do this they are suddenly dating someone who isnt jewish. this is not something that i would ever do, but i can see the logic.
some who date out say that they had alot of bad experiences dating in and that the gentile boyfriend/girlfriend has better midos than the jewish boyfriend/girlfriends they have had. what do you say to that? i usually dont say anything. it probably is true. but this doesnt prove that they would never be able to find a yid to have a relationship with that has good midos....they just havent yet....
currently i have a jewish co-worker who is dating a goy. he's the epitome of the boyfriend no parent would want their daughter to date AND he isnt jewish. its just so sad. her parents are plotzing, but im not sure what they would think if she actually became frum. they might not like that either. the thing is, this co-worker of mine is the type who if she went to a frum singles event she would be the belle of the ball. she'd have no problem finding someone.
of course im not the best example of how great it is to date someone jewish because im perpetually single and have more bad stories than i would care to share. i do know that its not just the jewish men who are creeps. i think that its hard to find quality men. i have gentile co-workers who also think that a good man is hard to find.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

purim recap

had a nice low-key purim. it lived up to all of my anticipation. ate way too much shalach manos. i am a bit wiped , though. ill post more another day.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

can i have a ride?

since purim is upon us and purim is a social time, i thought it would be a good time to post about this. the ride schnorrers. please note that i do not own a car.
whenever i go to a party, simcha etc, there is always the issue of transportation. i am always game for public transportation, but sometimes things end late, but i still would like to attend, so there is always that issue of how im going to get home. usually i make sure to go with someone else who if worse comes to worse ill take the train with home if i cant find a ride. or i leave early enough so its not a big deal to take the train alone.
its not such a big deal to take the train home if im going to the city , but if its new jersey or long island, sometimes its really impossible to get home without a ride, and i dont always know anyone with a car to give me a ride. in this case its tougher. im forced to ask people i dont know well for a ride either one or both ways. sometimes its not a big deal, because i live in apartment building with alot of social individuals and if i ask one of them for a ride , even if i dont know them well, im not asking them to go out of their way. i still feel a little bad because i dont have a car and cant reciprocate.
sometimes ive encountered people who are fed up about giving others rides. i understand. those with cars always are asked to give rides . sometimes it could be overwhelming, especially since sometimes the only reason some people chat them up is to get a ride. i truly appreciate those who have been kind enough to give me rides over the years.
i have offered to pay for tolls and gas as a passenger especially when ive gotten a ride from someone i dont know well.
i know that the answer is to get a car, but i really cant afford one. its difficult to find parking near my home. even with a car, if i got home late i may have a sizable walk from a parking space , so id still prefer a taxi ride over driving my own car late at night.
sometimes i actually prefer public transportation to a ride. some people drive so poorly i would prefer to take the subway.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


ive been rather disappointed this year, not as many midwood bakeries have poppy seed /moon hamantashen which are my favorite. i went to isaacs bakery and ostrovitky's on avenue j . ostravitsky's tried to pass off a poppy seed pastry as a hamantashen instead of admitting all they had was prune and apricot. weiss's bakery on m only had small poppy seed hamantashen, not the large ones. schrieber's on avenue m had small poppy seed hamantashen , but they didnt have any large hamantashen when i was in their store today. ostrovitsky's hamantashen are some of the best in midwood in my opinion, but they only get half a vote because i had to have a prune one instead of a poppy one this year. i dont especially like apricot hamantashen, but every bakery seems to carry them.

i ended up getting hamantashen from schrieber's . i actually bought the less desirable apricot as well as my favorite poppy ones. i need some shalach manos supplies that i wont be tempted to eat before purim. i DEFINITELY wont be eating the apricot ones.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

we know that moshiach must be coming soon when hostess twinkies are kosher

i had a friend years ago whose favorite saying was that we would know that moshiach would be here soon when hostess twinkies were kosher, because hostess twinkies are about at treyf as you can get. recently(it could be maybe a couple years ago) ive noticed that hostess twinkies have a triangle k on them. triangle k is not a hechsher i go by, so this still doesnt help me, but does it still count as being kosher? even in some remote roundabout way?

other signs that moshiach is coming soon. 7-11 on avenue m has cholov yisroel milk available for its coffee drinking customers. now i do agree that it really is just due to demographics. any establishment in midwood that offers cholov yisroel milk is definitely going to generate more traffic than one that doesnt .... still.... this is 7-11 we are talking about. redneck heaven. to me, its gotta be a sign.

another sign that moshiach is coming is walgreens on avenue j . they even have hebrew on their storefront. now i agree that the fact that walgreens has green in its name and there are alot of jewish people with the name green or some variation of green in their name (greenstein, greenberg, greenblatt)however , its still a step. walgreens was a well known chain of pharmacies in the midwest where i grew up, the midwest is redneck heaven, which of course makes walgreens count. i know that growing up in the goyishe bible belt , one would never imagine a walgreens store, not even one in brooklyn, having hebrew on its storefront. so there you have it moshiach must be on the way.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

the handshake

if one does not want to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex due to shomer negiah reasons it is very important that one have a good prepared answer and not to just say that you dont shake hands . that is not a good enough reason.
i work in a service oriented profession and though the higher ups that are jewish have heard about shomer negiah, there are non-jewish employees who are not familiar with it. once there was a male co-worker of mine who put out his hand to a frum client to shake hands and im not sure what she said to him because i wasnt in the room with him, but she must not have said anything because later he asked me why she did this , and did she not shake hands with him because he isnt jewish. i explained to him that it was not because he wasnt jewish, but it was because men and women arent supposed to touch unless they are married. when he realized that she didnt want to shake hands with him was not because he wasnt jewish and just because he was a boy he was totally ok with it. see , now how hard was that? and if you dont like the explanation i gave , all the more reason to give your own.
another time a chasidic couple were speaking to the office manager and the office manager put her hand out to shake hands with the husband and the wife said to her"we dont shake hands".
later the office manager said that she could care less that he didnt want to shake her hand , but that she thought it odd because moments before, the wife shook hands with her. i explained to her that it wasnt that frum people dont shake hands, its just that men dont shake hands with women because they arent supposed to touch any woman who is not their wife.
of course , the other thing that i find un-thrilling about frummies unwittingly leaving me to do the explaining for them is that whoever is asking why also asks me what i would do. well... when i was growing up i was taught that its okay to shake someone's hand at work so as not to embarrass them and that there really is not derech chibah in these types of handshakes.
if you are honest and genuine with people when you explain to people why you do not shake hands with someone of the opposite sex , they are really okay with it. i have seen a few people do it, and they are very sweet about it , no one takes offense. and if you cant explain it to them its better to shake their hand if you ask me. not giving a true explanation is worse and i know this because ive had to explain non-handshaking to several confused people.