Hawaii Five-O–a JUBILEE

I am turning 50 in late December. That’s right, the big Five-O! Let the celebration begin.

I recently learned that a jubilee is actually from the Old Testament. It occurs on the 50th year after seven cycles of seven years.

“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. “

While the jubilee year is more directly related to fields and property, I feel a different meaning. I am not referring to the slave part, but I can totally relate to this being a time of freedom and celebration. I am making sure that this year is clearly that. I can even stretch the idea  to visiting with my childhood friends and the chance to reconnect to our past as a way of receiving back my original property!

I started this celebration at the beginning of my vacation last summer when I had lunch in New Jersey with my childhood friend Anne Blumenstein, whom I’ve known since 3rd grade, right before her 50th birthday and continued at the end of the trip having brunch with our other friend, Jennifer Lorvick, in Marin County. She turned 50 on April 1–no fooling.

I met Jennifer and Angie for lunch in Santa Rosa in July. Jennifer is to the left of me.

I had lunch with Anne in New Jersey in July.

The three of us were on the newspaper staff together in high school and have remained friends ever since. It’s too bad we couldn’t have lunch all together. But I was happy to eat twice on two different coasts!

It really heated up last week when I traveled to Southern California to join Kathy (Brown) Goetsch, to celebrate her big Five-O. I was not going to miss this one. And I don’t plan to stop this party until the end of the year!

If I didn’t call you while I was in So. Cal., please forgive me. We’ll catch up another time. I am sure that I will be back.

I’ve learned over the years that on these short trips I cannot get together with every friend I’ve ever known when I was growing up. I’ve also found that gathering with groups of them can be somewhat unsatisfactory. While I get to see a lot of people at the same time, we don’t really get a chance to catch up in any meaningful way. The older I get, the more meaning I seek.

On this trip I was very strategic in my choices. Besides Kathy’s big event, I only saw three people who also turned 50 this year: Donna (Freed) Paul, Jon Sherman and Margo (Boston) Ludwig. Let me explain.

Margo and I went to pre-school together. That is how long I have known her. Our parents carpooled and we played. By the time we got to Jr. High we chose different social circles, but the fact that we were classmates in pre-school, McComber Jr. High School, Sunny Hills High School and UCLA makes for a pretty long shared history. We have remained connected.

Outside the delicious Mexican restaurant where I had lunch with Margo.

She  invited me to her party last July, but I couldn’t make it. Our October afternoon together where she lives in beautiful South Laguna Beach totally made up for it.

Then there’s Jon Sherman. Not only did we go to elementary, Jr. high and high school together, but we were passengers together in the infamous Hebrew School carpool of our childhood days!

My Hebrew School classmates from my trip last January. Jon is the one who is right next to me.

One of my mother’s favorite stories was of another parent calling to suggest that if Jon and I did not stop fighting in the back seat that she would no longer pick us up and take us to our weekday afternoon Hebrew study. We were active in Temple youth group together and were generally Jewish together in our home town of Buena Park, California.

Now that I think of it, we were also on our high school newspaper staff together. Hmmmm, I’m starting to detect a theme of carpools and newspapers and Jews. I couldn’t have planned it better.

I have to mention that Jon’s wife Melanie also celebrated her 50th birthday this year. I always enjoy socializing with this couple and catching up, our backseat fighting a thing of the past. I wish I hadn’t forgotten to take a picture!

Donna and I were roommates for several years after graduating from college. Even though we were English majors at UCLA at the same time, we didn’t really connect until later when we were both Sunday school teachers at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills and became roommates the summer before I entered the teaching program at UCLA. She still lives in the area and has embraced dancing hula in L.A.!

Donna and I enjoyed a nice afternoon together in downtown Culver City.

And now for the main event: Kathy Goetsch’s 50th birthday celebration extravaganza in Fullerton, California and beyond. We had a blast and it was just like being back in high school.

Our friend Carmen came south from the Seattle area so that we could celebrate together. Kathy’s husband, Billy, hosted a party in Kathy’s honor and many other childhood friends showed up.

Carmen, Kathy and me in Kathy’s backyard before                 her 50th birthday party.

Jody (Cheechov)  Nolan was there. I’ve known Jody longer than I’ve known Kathy. We were in the same girl scout troupe and all cruised together in high school. Kathy and I were in her wedding many moons ago.

High School Reunion in Kathy’s backyard at her  50th birthday party: Carmen, Kathy, Jody and me.

Lori Goetsch came too. She’s Kathy’s sister-in-law and I knew her before I knew Kathy. Did I mention that Kathy’s husband was classmates with my older sister and we grew up down the block from each other?

Kathy’s sister-in-law Lori Goetsch is also a childhood classmate of mine. We were on the swim team together in elementary school.

The party was a great success and we ladies got up on Friday morning, packed our bags and headed for Long Beach where we boarded the Catalina Express to spend a weekend together talking story, eating lots of awesome Mexican food, listening to music, drinking a bit too much, sharing old memories and making new ones.

The ladies before boarding the Catalina Express.

Catalina Island

Colleen, me, Kathy and Carmen at a jazz concert in Catalina.

Las chicas at the cantina. At least by age 50 we are certainly old enough to have an adult beverage or two….

When I say it was just like high school, I really mean it. Carmen’s laugh is just the same, coming just a few seconds behind the rest. Kathy won’t stop teasing me–even if I’m not laughing anymore. Jody still loves her cats and we all have a great time together. We may have married, matured, had kids, got new cats, but fundamentally these ladies have not changed. That’s what makes it so cool.

We had fun together then and we have a great time together now. We care about each other and take care of each other. It is such a pleasure to reconnect and quite reassuring to realize that I chose such wonderful friends in my youth that are totally worth hanging on to.

I can’t wait to spend the next 50 years enjoying their friendship.

A New Year’s greeting- T’shuvah, T’filah, Tzedakah

It is not news that much of Oahu’s Jewish community has been in turmoil lately. The Honolulu Star Advertiser covered some of it in stories that were published last month. As with any conflict, there is a lot more to it than the newspaper reporter can capture or communicate in a few articles.

Recent events have made a huge impact on our family. While my husband and I have much to say and this topic tends to dominate our dinner table discussion and other daily conversations, I am conflicted about what to post. My personal perspective and disappointment leave me feeling a bit paralyzed–not for action, but in finding the right words.

Our actions certainly speak for themselves. We quit our membership at Temple Emanu-El Honolulu. For us, it’s about the process, which was anything but transparent.

It’s about the disparity between control and leadership. It’s about the fact that the leadership made their decisions based on only one perspective and completely disregarded any sense of compromise with or consideration of ours. It’s about zero tolerance for  leaders who resort to bullying and physical abuse to get their way.

The Sunday School deteriorated from bad to worse and they refused to address the issue in a timely manner due to their single-minded agenda in regards to getting rid of the Rabbi. It has not been as amicable as some might suggest.

We will not be a part of the Temple Emanu-El congregation for the beginning of 5772. We will attend High Holy Days services at Aloha Jewish Chapel where my husband and I met over nine years ago. Our courtship was spent celebrating Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the seats of this congregation.  We have returned each year for Shabbat services and holidays. Our family will reflect on the past year and welcome in the new one from those same seats.

I will embrace this time for t’shuvah (repentance,) t’filah (prayer,) and tzedakah (justice.)

I found some cool thoughts on this in “The Torah In Haiku” on an RJ blog and am happy to share it with you.

My friend Toby sent a link to a You Tube video that is worth sharing. It’s a nice new year greeting and the sentiment is warm.

L’shanah Tovah U M’Tukah.

Where were you on 9/11?

For my parents, the question was what were you doing when you heard the news that JFK was shot.

For my generation, it is about remembering where we were on September 11, 2001 at those awful moments when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, or during the ensuing destruction and horrible aftermath that were all caught on video.

My response to the question is a confession. I was asleep.

In the spirit of T’shuvah, I must ask for forgiveness. Not from one particular person, per say. Just forgiveness. And of course it comes in the form of a story.

Last July, my husband and I spent a few days in New York City. We have both made many trips to the city before this one, playing tourists, taking our kids to Broadway plays, standing in line for the elevator to go to the top of the Empire State Building, visiting the Museum of Natural History and indulging ourselves at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We’ve also taken both kids to Ground Zero. We’d pretty much covered most of the main landmarks, until this summer.

This summer we visited the 9/11 Memorial.

And this is where my words fail me. I can only share vain attempts at capturing what it felt like to be there.  While I have rave reviews in appreciation for the logistics of its design in terms of accessibility and crowd management, I’ll save that for another post.

For some reason I keep thinking of Percy Shelley’s poem, “Mont Blanc,” that I studied in high school and college and haven’t thought much about since then. The feelings that nature inspired  him to write about in that poem, are similar to the feelings that the memorial inspired in me. The memorial is awe-inspiring, deep, untouchable, sad and beautiful. All at the same time.

I also had a revelation, which leads me to the confession part.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep when the phone rang at about 5:30 a.m.. It was my mother. She  had called to ask me if I knew what was going on and to tell me to turn on the T.V.. I got mad at her for waking me up. I watched for a few minutes and went back to sleep and did not click the T.V. back on until later.

The morning of September 11, 2001 was in the middle of one of the biggest personal crisis of my life. I was in the throes of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad divorce.

I had recently evicted my first husband from our house. I was afraid for my safety. Armed only with the meager protection of a restraining order, I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and was generally a mess. My daughter was only four years old and the tension and change in our home put her in a constant state of distress. All of my energy was spent taking care of her.

I had taken off work for a while to get our life together. From my perspective at the time, my mother, who knew that my life was in shambles,  chose to wake me up on one of the few mornings that I had actually had a chance to get a bit of sleep and she pissed me off. My feelings were hurt that she had been so inconsiderate.

Of course, by later in the day I  was much more coherent and realized why she had called. I began to pay attention to the events that played out on the television in my remote Wai’anae Valley home on the leeward coast of O’ahu. But not really.

Over the course of the next months I was vaguely aware of the course of the historical events, but it seemed so far away. I cared, but not with my heart. I was so selfishly wrapped up in the details of the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me and distracted by the tasks of putting  life back together for both me and my daughter, that I never made an emotional connection to the horrible magnitude of 9/11.

Not until this summer. Not until I visited the 9/11 Memorial.

Standing with my second husband next to the deep well of the memorial, reflecting on the names inscribed around it  and absorbing the profound spirit that the quiet space evokes, I filled with regret.

I should have paid more attention….with my heart. I am sorry.

When we took photos at the memorial I couldn’t bring myself to smile for the camera. It felt disrespectful. I needed to assume a solemn pose, one that reflected in my demeanor the heaviness that I felt inside. I needed to honor those that were lost and those that were heroes during this grave moment of our history. I  am sorry that I didn’t do it sooner.

During the same trip, I visited my friend, Anne Blumenstein, in New Jersey. Her grade school aged son was obsessed with the construction of the “Freedom Tower” and all factual information surrounding it, as some boys that age can be. Anne told me that the father of one of her son’s classmates had died in the World Trade Center while his mother had been pregnant with  the boy at the time. Thus Anne’s son’s keen interest and empathy. A whole new level for his generation’s  questions and stories.

Which leads me back to where I started and so I ask again, where were you on 9/11?

It’s fun to swim at the YMCA

This blog post is about how I like to go to the local YMCA whenever  I am on vacation and swim and some of the interesting Y’s I have visited. But when I started thinking about what I wanted to write, I realized what a long history I have with the YMCA. It stems back to my childhood and I feel compelled to share that too.

It all boils down to the title of this post which is that it is fun to swim at the YMCA.

My family joined the Anaheim YMCA when I was in grade school so that my sisters and I could join their synchronized swimming team. My father ran and swam there as well. I kind of grew up there. Over the years I also joined the  swimming team and socialized in their teen center.

It’s where I got my first job when I was in high school. I was the babysitter on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for children whose parents were working out and going to exercise classes. Eventually I worked as a counselor at the summer day camp  until I was a sophomore in college.

While I was attending UCLA, I joined the West L.A. YMCA so that I could swim in their masters program and from there I moved over to the Beverly Hills YMCA where I got a job one summer at their day camp. It was at the Beverly Hills Y that I forged friendships that have lasted until this day.

This particular group of counselors spent several summers working together, including a week each of those summers at Camp Arbolado in the San Bernardino Forest where we strengthened our bonds and pulled pranks on each other straight out of the movies.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. I got involved with the Leeward YMCA on Oahu when it was merely an old sugar mill’s  smokestack in Waipahu,  long before they had a swimming pool. Both of my kids have attended Leeward Y’s A+ program that they operate in the local schools  as well as their summer and school break programs. Just as I was a counselor for other people’s kids when I was young and had loads of energy, I depended on their youthful staff’s expertise and care in handling my precious kids.

And then they built a pool–and I joined. What I like best about being a Y member is that I can swim at any Y facility across the island. I often swim in the Nuuanu Y’s pool as it is close to our shul and I can zip over while the kids are at Hebrew school and swim a few laps while they are in class.

The added benefit of YMCA membership is that when I go on vacation, I can go to the local YMCA where ever I happen to be and they will extend a guest pass to me to use their facilities.

When I visit my friend Kathy in our hometown of Fullerton I dive in the pool at the Fullerton YMCA. When we go to Carlsbad, California to enjoy our time share vacation there, I swim at the Magdalene Ecke Family YMCA. A few years ago I attended a high school reunion in Southern Orange County, California  and I swam at the Irvine YMCA. Last winter I stayed in Santa Monica and swam at the Y there. I even swam at the Embarcadero YMCA in San Francisco a few summers ago and had an amazing view of the San Francisco Bay and Bay Bridge right from the pool.

During the summer of 2012 I ventured to a YMCA outside of California.

I swam twice at the Bethlehem YMCA in July when we were visiting my husband’s side of the family in Albany, New York. Not only do they have a nice indoor pool, but I learned that  “The Bethlehem YMCA Ice Rink is a NHL regulation sized rink and is one of only six YMCA’s in the country with indoor rink facilities.”

On my way back to Hawaii from the East Coast of the continental U.S. I stopped in Santa Rosa to visit our older teenager at URJ Camp Newman. I went for a swim at the Sonoma County Family YMCA before I hit the road for our reunion.

I asked the lifeguard a few questions about the pool and noticed that her name tag said “Malia.” I asked her if she is from Hawaii and she said that her father is from here and lives in Ewa Beach. We were both happy to make the connection.

When I started writing about the Bethlehem YMCA it reminded me that I visited the Jerusalem YMCA in Israel a very long time ago in the 1980’s, but I will save that for another post.

Aaron Rabinovitz (1932-2012)

It is with great sadness that I share with you the obituary of Aaron Rabinovitz who passed away on Saturday. It is beautifully written by his grandson Jarrod Morgenstern.

Aaron’s Obituary

Aaron was my mother’s beau. Jarrod sums up their story  perfectly,  “After a few short months of courting – playing bridge, dinner dates and giggling like a couple of teenagers, — they became best friends and romantic partners in 2004 and lived together until her death in 2010.”

One of my favorite stories is about the beginning of their relationship. My mother was visiting us from Kansas City and my daughter went to hang out with her in her hotel room while I went to do some errands. When I asked my daughter what they did, she told me, “I watched TV while Grandma talked on the phone with Aaron.”

They moved in together soon after that trip.

Through their relationship, Aaron became a part of our family, blending ours with his as these modern arrangements tend to do.

My daughter has said on more than one occasion that he is like the grandfather she never really had. She asked him to be the one who presented  her Tallis at the beginning of her Bat Mitzvah Ceremony a few years ago and he told the congregation the story about when he met her and the first thing she asked him was, “Are you Jewish?”

Aaron made my mother so happy. We should all be so blessed to find such love.

Sharing a piece of Shabbat Shalom

A lot of people who do not go to our Temple have asked me for updates since I posted about our turmoil last spring. All I can say is that the situation has not improved and it is very tumultuous  and stressful, thus not easy to write about. So I haven’t–and won’t—for now.

I will post this beautiful photo that my friend Linda sent me.


She took it during Shabbat services last night at Kakaako Waterfront Park where Temple Emanu-El Honolulu holds Erev Shabbat Services several times during the summer months. We weren’t there, but are happy that Linda shared this wonderful piece of Shabbat.

It reminds me that peace is within our reach and is offered to us every week. I hope that all of our community are embracing it today and thoughts of tomorrow are in prayers for future Shabbat Shalom and L’shanah tovah u’metuchah, not a Temple in pieces.

Thank goodness pay phones have not been layed to rest

I was so concerned about charging my iPad so that I could read from my Kindle app for the duration of my six hour flight from Boston to San Francisco, that I forgot to charge my cell phone and somewhere along the way it died. All that searching for a connection can be exhausting, even for a cell phone.

It would not have been much of a problem except that I had made reservations with Marin Door to Door shuttle to take me to my Santa Rosa destination and I was supposed to call them before I collected my baggage so that they could dispatch a driver. My iPad can do a lot of amazing things, but making a phone call is not one of them. At least not with the few apps that I’ve downloaded so far.

It was almost midnight and I wanted to make sure that the last part of this long journey would happen fast, so I stopped at the first pay phone I could find. I dug out a quarter from the change purse attached to my wallet and reached to put it in the coin slot. That’s when I realized that it has been a very long time since I have used a pay phone. So long, in fact, that I was not aware that it costs fifty cents to make a call.

I dug out another quarter and proceeded to dial the shuttle’s number when I got a message announcing that this particular call would cost 75 cents and that I needed to insert more money. Luckily I had the requisite amount in dimes and a nickel and I added that to the machine. I’m not sure what went wrong from there, either I incorrectly dialed the phone number or I should not have dialed it again, but the line went dead. When I hung up the phone, I was not returned my 2 quarters, two dimes and one nickel. I was out of change and perhaps luck. It was the middle of the night! How was I going to find my ride?

Not willing to panic just yet, I contemplated stopping a stranger who was passing by and asking to use his or her cell phone for a fast call. I considered my reaction if a stranger in an airport at midnight stopped me with a similar request, but before I moved into desperate action, I noticed that the pay phone is also set up so that I could use a credit card to pay for my call. What a relief. I slid my American Express card in and out of the slot for a $.75 charge and contacted the shuttle company as instructed.

Apparently the night shift operates differently than the day people who take the reservations, because this guy asked me to call again after I had my baggage.

Thank goodness for that credit card slot and my trusty American Express card and the fact that the airport still has pay phones. It took more than a few calls to negotiate my ride. (I won’t mention how terrible the service is from Marin Door to Door–you can check out all the bad reviews on Yelp.)

Our next bill will reflect several $.75 charges. I don’t think the night shift guy ever quite figured out that I did not have the convenience of a cell phone to call back and forth as he figured out how to do his job with me as the guinea pig.

But between that slot, my card and the electrical outlet on the nearby wall where I was able to take advantage of the ridiculously long wait for the late night shuttle and charge my iPhone enough to operate in case of emergency during the 2 hour journey to Santa Rosa, I managed to negotiate my ride and blend a bit of old technology with the new.

It’s nice to know that with a pay phone, when the line goes dead, there is redemption. Another phone call is just a few quarters or credit card slides away. When a cell phone dies, resurrection is a much longer process.

I also made for darned sure that both my phone and iPad were fully charged before I left for the airport for my return fight from San Francisco to Honolulu. I even remembered to turn off the phone when I got on the plane so I would have no difficulty calling my ride as soon as the plane landed on Oahu to get me home ASAP. I also think I’ll buy one of those back up batteries for the next time I travel.

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