Put your feet up for a minute

We went to get our nails done the other day. I thought it would be a nice treat for my girls to start off the summer. Of course I couldn’t help reminding them that I never had a manicure, let alone a pedicure until I was in my 20’s, had graduated from college and had a job. I left out the part that the opportunity had never arisen in my suburban Southern California childhood or adolescence. I’m pretty sure I would have jumped on it in a flash if it had.

I’ve noticed that every time I do go to one of our local nail shops lately that there is a man in one of the big spa chairs along the wall enjoying a pedicure. I don’t blame them. This is not just a girl thing. They can skip the polish and the sparkles and stick to the cleaning and massage. It is a pleasure to be groomed.

My younger girl noticed their presence as well. That’s when she coined a new phrase: “A manly-pedi.” I thought it was so great that I had to share it here. I think that one of these shops should put it as a special item on their list of services along with the mani pedi combo.

Remembering my mother on Memorial Day Weekend

Today I am thinking of my mother, Gloria P. Gershun, who died suddenly two years ago today. I think about her every day, today is just a little bit more out loud. I miss her very much.

Two days before she died, she had lunch with her friends and went shopping for a purse at Nordstrom. She was only sick for two days and very alive and kicking every single one before that.

On Thursday, I went to the Searider Productions Awards Banquet at Wai’anae High School and presented a scholarship in both my parent’s memory to a wonderful young man, Mr. Michael Gooch.

On Friday, my family went to Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu and said kaddish.

Tomorrow Rabbi Schaktman is participating in the Lantern Floating Ceremony on Sunday at Ala Moana Beach Park where he will be floating a lantern on behalf of our congregation which will carry a yahrzeit list. I have added both of my parents’ names. It is a beautiful ceremony and a deeply moving way to remember our loss.

Tonight we have invited a few friends and neighbors over for a barbecue that has nothing directly to do with my mom. We always have a party on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and after thinking about it a bit, I decided that just because it is the anniversary of her death does not mean we have to be sad on purpose. She certainly would not want us to change our plans.

I lit the yahrzeit candle this morning when I got up. Somehow the twinkling flame brings the feel of her presence just a bit us closer to us on this day. I wouldn’t want her to miss the party.

May her memory be a blessing and inspiration to us all.

I would like to share the bio that my youngest sister, boo, wrote about my mom.

Gloria Polsky Gershun, b. August 28, 1929, d. May 27, 2010
Gloria Polsky grew up in the small town of Marfa, Texas with her parents Blanche and Walter Polsky and her younger sister, Barbara. She graduated from high school in Omaha, NE at the age of 16 and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1952. She met Theodore Leonard Gershun at her best friend’s wedding in November of 1947 and Gloria and Ted were married on June 20, 1948.

Gloria and Ted moved to Southern California in 1961. They lived there for nearly 30 years, where Gloria kept their household, volunteered with many community and school activities, and raised three daughters — Martha, Elizabeth (Betsy) (boo), and Lorraine (Lorrie) — in a happy, suburban Jewish home filled with books, food, friends, laughter, an orange player piano, and a ceramic lion’s head which lived in a birdcage.  When the girls grew older, Gloria returned to school, pursuing her lifelong love of books by earning a Masters in Library Science from California State University at Fullerton in 1975.  She re-entered the work force, first as a school librarian and then as a public school administrator for nearly 15 years.

When Ted passed away in 1990, Gloria retired and moved to Kansas City, where she made many good friends and built a full and satisfying life as an active participant in the Jewish community, a committed volunteer, and an avid shopper. In 2004 Gloria met Aaron Rabinovitz, who became her second life partner until her death in 2010. She is remembered for her optimistic approach to life; her lifelong willingness to try new things; her generosity to her community, family, and friends; her deep commitment to sharing her love of books; and her unfailing ability to find the right outfit for every occasion and the right gift for every person.

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Please forgive my absence and interruption of the new weekly blog features so soon after they began. I was away for two wonderful weeks of vacation with my family and embraced the art of relaxation.

We had a great time and I am happy to be back and blogging ahead.

Perhaps it was coincidence when I started a weekly book review that  at the same time my sister was co-hosting a book event in the Kansas City Jewish Community  in memory of my mother Gloria P. Gershun who started the Jewish Book Fair in that area many years ago. But I think not.

Divine intervention? intention? Or maybe it is my mother’s influence ever in our hearts and spirits.

I certainly did not see a connection on the timing when I began, but I do now. Among other things, my mom was a librarian, a children’s librarian. My sisters and I grew up with books as an integral part of our daily lives. All three of us love to read. We had a mini library in our house when we were growing up–these days they call them book shelves!

No wonder my sister and I were doing book stuff at the same time.

Hers was more directly related to my mom, of course. Thus I have decided to share the book that they featured at the event last month: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

While it does not have  a Hawaii connection, the author is Jewish (which I did not know until recently) and I LOVED this book as a child. I still have my copy from way back when that my younger girl enjoyed reading a few years ago.

And now I have a copy signed by the author thanks to my sister (and the author). Mahalo.

This is less of a review and more of a recommend. Perhaps my favorite places that the characters Milo and Tock visit are the Doldrums and Dictionopolis, especially the Doldrums. To this day I can feel the images and mood that Juster creates just by the mention of the word Doldrums.

You are never too old to read The Phantom Tollbooth. Perhaps on the 50th anniversary of its debut is a perfect time. And if you want to borrow a copy, if you promise to be very careful with it, I might lend you one of mine.

Do I need therapy for my therapy?

I would not describe myself as a shopaholic. I am not that extreme. But I could definitely be considered a shopper. It’s in my jeans.

My mother was totally a shopper. You could probably refer to her as the Queen Bee of shoppers. She gleefully put together a fall, winter and spring wardrobe every season. I think she chose her last residence for its proximity to Chicos, Talbots and Coldwater Creek that were just down the block. The Jewish Community Center was nearby as well.

My sisters and I have definitely inherited her propensity for supporting the economy (not to mention a definite resemblance in the good looks and charm department as well). We got a lot of practice growing up.

I can remember many a childhood evening spent with my mother and sisters at Southern California’s Buena Park Mall. We tried on clothes at the local Sears, J. J. Newberries and smaller clothing shops. We’d always stop half way through our excursion and call my father from the pay phone in the middle of the mall to let him know we were going to be a few more hours.

I think he was happy for the time to himself and the quiet calm in our home on these evenings. Three Gershun girls can make a lot of noise.

These days my oldest sister does most of her buying online. The younger one is more like our mother and a regular at Kohl’s and T.J. Maxx and always happy to take us there when we visit since we do not have those gold mines in the shopping arena in Hawaii.

I fall somewhere in between.

A few years ago I began to refer to it as retail therapy, noticing the  positive emotional payoff after a satisfactory excursion to Pearlridge Mall or Ala Moana Center.

I definitely took that form of therapy to an extreme after a few major life changing incidents like divorcing my first husband or several years later breaking up with my new boyfriend when we were dating before we made up and he became my second husband.

My overwhelming feelings during those difficult times were not assuaged by the purchase of a new pair of shoes or a cute jacket. They required much grander gestures: redecorating or buying moderately expensive jewelry.

Over the past few years I have tempered my shopping habits. The combination of only needing a wardrobe for one season in Hawaii, trying to stick to a budget along with a concerted effort at trying to be satisfied with what I have usually work to keep me from visiting the local stores and malls a bit more than I used to.

However, recently I have been shopping up a storm.

When I told my friend Linda about this and that I had several things to return at Macy’s, she said that she does that a lot too. She referred to it as “Bulimic Shopping.” It totally made sense.

I also got this from my mother and I know that my younger sister does it a lot too. I purchase way more clothes than I need or convince myself that it looks good on me in the fitting room. When I get home, I realize that I was fooling myself and wonder, “What was I thinking?” So I take it back.

Some times I simply find something that I like better and buy it knowing that I can return the other stuff later.

I started to look at my recent shopping patterns and have clearly identified myself as a bulimic shopper.

Binge and purge.

If you saw all of the receipts stuffed in my wallet you might be inclined to think that I am a hoarder!

In my defense I will mention that I recently lost a bunch of weight (25 pounds, thank you very much) and am in need of new clothes. The old ones are two sizes too big. So I deserve a bit of shopping for a stylish wardrobe to hang in my closet and from my now visible hip bones. It’s a reasonable reward.

But I’ve been doing that buy and return thing A LOT!

Perhaps the shopping is also replacing the eating? It certainly takes my mind off of the food. Some times I go so far as to consider it exercise too. If I shop for an hour is it an hour of walking? Do you think I should seek professional help?

However you look at it: genetic propensity, retail therapy, bingeing and purging,  if not taken to the extreme, shopping  can both fill the basic need to be clothed (in a moderately fashionable) way) and be a reasonable form of recreation.

So, thank you mom and sisters and Linda for sharing this habit and its many symptoms. I do believe I will drop the kids off tomorrow at Religious school and hit the mall….just for an hour or so.

Confessions of a Jewish Mother–My daughter starts high school

My oldest child starts high school tomorrow. I keep thinking, “This is it.” We have arrived. The next four years are going to go by really fast.

As my husband describes it, “She is in the chute.”

I imagine her standing at the top of a ride at the water park, grabbing  the bar and swinging gleefully down the wet slide, emerging with a joyous splash in the pool below.

While I know that this is her journey, her rite of passage, I am finding that it’s a pretty big transition for me too. She is enrolled in a  new school and I’m starting to feel like the new kid on the block myself.

I imagine myself in line behind her for that same ride, thunking and bumping my way down, not so gracefully,  water shooting up my nose as I try to keep up with her, hoping for a smooth landing.

We are both navigating new hallways.

She attended the same small school for grades two through eight. She was in the same class with her friends for seven years.

Not only have they been in the same class, they have celebrated at birthday parties together, gone on trips together and played on teams together.

I know their families. We have watched our children  blossom and learn. We have volunteered together, driven carpools together and raised our kids side by side.

Together, together, together.

That’s all about to change. She is officially a member of the freshman Class of 2015 at Kamehameha High School’s Kapalama Campus. A wonderful and unique opportunity and a huge change.

There were a total of 60 kids in her eighth grade. This year she will be among 450 freshmen attending classes, most of whom have been at the school since kindergarten, fourth or seventh grades.

We are “New Invitees.” We both have to make new friends.

On the first day of school she will face that lunchroom, look into the sea of students at the tables and wonder where to sit. For many, alliances have already been formed. She already knows a few kids, but she enters without her usual safety net.

I remind her that she will find friends in her classes and clubs and sports. They will form bonds. It will just take a bit of time.

I can totally relate. Until now I knew exactly what to do. At her old school  I knew all of the staff and the teachers and the parents. I knew the Head Master by name and he knew us. It was a very intimate environment.

I will also have to make new friends. At parent orientation I faced that same lunch room and had an inkling of how she feels.

Luckily, I am not shy and quickly found a seat  and began to get to know my fellow parents.

I admit that I feel a bit out-of-place. While my daughter is part Hawaiian, I am not.  After 18 years teaching at Wai’anae High School which has one of the highest student populations of native Hawaiians in the state, I am used to being a minority. I have often been the only white person in the room. This time I feel a bit more conspicuous.

I am also used to being one of the few Jews around.  There were only a handful at her former school and not very many of us live or work on the west side of Oahu.

Kamehameha is no different. We know one other Jewish family who has kids in the elementary school. Adding that they  go to chapel during the week, I am not sure that I will be visiting her classes at Chanukkah and teaching the kids how to play dreidle. I am wondering if her absence will be excused for Rosh HaShanah.

And talk about new hallways. Island Pacific Academy’s Middle School takes up one entire hallway and shares a few classrooms with the high school upstairs.

According to the Kamehameha website, the campus is 600 acres, has more than 70 buildings, an Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts and an athletic complex with a football/soccer field, track and seating for 3,000. It is home to 3,196 students in grades K-12.

On our first few visits I got lost and worried that we wouldn’t find our way around. It took a while, but I have finally figured out where to park.

Ninth grade classes are concentrated in two main buildings. But she will have to walk up and down the hill to the dining hall and the performing arts center. “Think of it as exercise,” I told her.

Entering high school is a big transition, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new school or not. The beginning of ninth grade can be daunting for both students and parents. Classmates have changed over the summer. New kids arrive from other schools. Teachers and procedures are unfamiliar. And it all counts like it has never counted before: academics and athletics, extracurricular activities and social opportunities.

It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. She is in the chute.

She has a great opportunity ahead and we will both do just fine. In no time she will have lunch mates and new Facebook friends. She will join clubs and go to football games.

I will attend meetings and school events and volunteer. I will check the website for homework and announcements. I will meet the parents of her friends. I will find ways to connect.

By the time she graduates in her white Kamehameha muu muu a the Neal Blaisdell Center, singing her school song, it will be in her heart and a part of our family.

We will survive high school.

Dating advice to my daughters…..

Be a lady, let him pay, don’t fart.

Confessions of a Jewish Mother–My daughter rode the bus

Now that I have claimed my identity as a Jewish Mother I am compelled to share my adventures in this arena of my life.

Today was a prime example. My 14-year-old daughter rode the bus all by herself for the first time today. For her, it was not a big deal. For me, it was monumental.

I am finding that  her blossoming busy schedule is coming in conflict with my generally robust line-up  of commitments quite often  lately and I just can’t be in two places at once.

I have resigned myself to the role of chauffeur rather than escort as my children reach adolescence (not to mention ATM machine.) But I cannot be at their beck and call every hour of the day. I do have a life of my own, you know.

Summer vacation brought a change in her schedule which added some conflicts with mine. We had to find a creative solution to get us each to different locations at the same time. Thus, the bus.

I often look back on the privileges my own parents afforded me and at what ages they were bestowed. My mother was pretty over-protective and I figure if she let me do it, then I should probably extend that opportunity to my own daughter.

I was allowed to take the bus from Buena Park, CA to Huntington Beach with my friends the summer before ninth grade in 1974.

Today I let her ride the bus to the local park where she is a Day Camp Jr. Counselor–15 whole minutes–so that I could attend my weekly meeting at the Rotary Club of Kapolei.

Like I said before, I was nervous. When I asked her what she was worried about, the only problem she foresaw was finding the right timing to pull the string to signal the driver to stop at her desired destination.

I told her that she was perfectly capable of handling the logistics. I gave her the printout from The Bus website that delineates her route. I reminded her that she is the one who usually navigates the airport when we are traveling on the mainland. She is usually the first to find the way to the ticket counter or baggage claim.

I told her that the thing that concerned me was, “Stranger danger.” This is when she reassured me.

“I’ve got my iPod for that,” she said.

That’s when I  knew it would be okay. My daughter would ride the bus to her volunteer job, she would ward off contact with any predators with her iPod headphones plugged snugly in her ears and she would pull the string at the right moment to disembark and cross the street and start her day.

I put bus fare on the counter, reminded her to text me when she arrived and went off to my meeting.

I won’t tell her that I checked my phone every few minutes until she got there. Or that I was tempted to text her and check on her progress, remind her to be safe or put on sunscreen. I simply waited for the words, “I’m here.” I replied, “Have fun” and relaxed to enjoy the rest of the meeting.

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