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So True!

Found on Pinterest. Words from one of my favorite authors…

LoisLowryQuote

Avodah/Work: You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors; you shall be happy and you shall prosper. (Psalm 128:2)

Now that my husband and I are settled in Washington, DC, I have been doing some serious job hunting. For me, this does not mean sending out 100 resumes a day to every job opening for which I have the minimum qualifications. Rather, I search for jobs that resonate with me. Positions that might afford me the opportunity to give back to the community using some of the experience and skills I have developed over the years. I search for opportunities where I might learn new skills as well. I look for places that need help building–a new department, a new position, a new program. Needless to say, I do not apply for many jobs.

When I do send my resume and cover letter, I am optimistic that I will hear back but rarely do. On those infrequent occasions when I get a call and better yet, an interview, I am so hopeful, so filled with joy and expectation. Will this be the opportunity I have been waiting for?

I am not good at putting on masks – I don’t wear makeup, no longer color my hair – what you see is what you get. I have worked long enough and in so many different types of jobs that it would take a lot to shock or surprise me. Yet, I am beginning to wonder if my interviewers do not believe what I say, are not sure my confidence is real. I am wondering if I need to say clearly, “Yes, I have had an abundance of conflict and tribulation in my life. I choose not to dwell on it. I choose to learn from it and move on.”  Perhaps I should shine a brighter light on myself and talk about the many accolades I have received, the praise I have been given. I wonder if adding these statements in my cover letters might get me a few more phone calls.

Actually, I am thinking my next cover letter will simply be my favorite poem with a small note stating, This is all I ask as this is all I need:

To Be of Use

By Marge Piercy from The Art of Blessing the Day. ©1999.  Alfred A. Knopf.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Isn’t that all any of us want?

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

Avodah/Work is an important part of life. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work…” (Exodus 20:9). Here are some great books to get that point across to your children:

When I Grow Up. Written by Al Yankovic. Illustrated by Wes Hargis. HarperCollins Publishers. ©2011. Yes, the “Weird” All Yankovic of those crazy satires of popular music has written a delightfully funny children’s book about the age old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Using his trademark rhyming and hysterical scenarios, A.Y. goes from the ridiculous – snail trainer, giraffe milker, gorilla masseuse (my personal favorite!) – to the realistic –butcher, barber, teacher. The joy will be in discovering your own crazy and weird jobs to rhyme along. (Ages 4-8)

Chicken Man. Written and illustrated by Michelle Edwards. NewSouth Books, ©2009. Rody lives on a kibbutz in Israel.  He is a person who loves his work – in the chicken house.  When others see how happy he is there, they want to work in the chicken house as well.  Since life on the kibbutz involves rotating jobs, Rody agrees to try new things. But the chickens love Rody best of all, so they make the decision where he will work. (ages 5-9)

Sky Boys. Written by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. Schwartz & Wade Books. © 2006. The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high and was built in one year and forty five days, during the Great Depression in 1931. This is a tribute to the monumental effort that went into constructing a building that is still a landmark of New York City. (Ages 6-10)

Crunch. Written by Leslie Connor. HarperCollins Publishers. ©2010. There is a serious gas shortage – a “Crunch” – and the Marriss family is in a real bind. The parents are stuck up north waiting for gas to refill the truck so they can get home from their 20th anniversary trip. The five children – ages 5-18 – are home taking care of each other, the family farm and the family bike shop. Of course, this week EVERYONE needs a bike or their old bike repaired. To top off their stress, there appears to be a bike parts thief loose in the neighborhood. What else could go wrong?

©2013 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Remembering Elizabeth Louise Portolan (z’l) – My Mom

Today is my mother’s first yahrzeit. Can a deceased Italian-Catholic woman have a yahrzeit?  Well, since her formerly Italian-Catholic daughter is now an Italian-Jew, it is my only way to honor her memory. Although I have to say, I may take some creative liberties to appease some of my family members.

My mother died on October 11, 2011. We actually believe she died on October 5, 2011, while having lunch at a local restaurant she, my dad, uncle and aunt had gone to in order to celebrate my father’s birthday. It was there that my mom went into cardiac arrest, slumping down on my dad’s shoulder and being lowered to the floor, unresponsive. Miraculously, there was a nurse in the restaurant at the same time who witnessed what was happening, rushed over and immediately began administering CPR while the paramedics were on their way.

When the paramedics arrived, they used the paddles and epinephrine on my mother THREE TIMES before they got her heart to start beating again. This is the time—according to our family mythology—where mom was in “God’s Negotiation Center” explaining the reasons why she needed a few more days, which she received. Mom came back, much to the surprise of my “former paramedic” brother, much to the relief of my “not ready to lose her” sister, and with enormous gratitude from me, “the 3,000 miles away” older sister.

Things started off well enough. Mom seemed clear about where she was. She was eager to go home (mom hated hospitals.) The doctors were optimistic. I was kept informed of her progress and was making plans to come out to California to assist with her recovery after she was released.

But the terms of “the Negotiation” clearly must have meant leaving us, not to go home to her house in Murrieta, CA, but to go to that Home with a Capital “H” up in the clouds—if you know what I mean—as I suddenly got a frantic call from my brother telling me that if I wanted to say goodbye to mom, I better get on a plane right now and head to California. That is how I found myself traveling on a red eye from Boston to LAX on Kol Nidre last year; sitting in a hospital ICU on Yom Kippur holding my mom’s hand telling her that I loved her, that she was a great mom and that whatever she needed to do was the right decision; sitting with my sobbing sister explaining that we must not be selfish and beg mom to stay if by doing so would require her to live a life of pain and suffering;  and supporting my brother, the medical power of attorney for my parents, who had to discuss the most painful decisions about DNR, medication adjustments and hospital room transfers with our dad and then sign whatever papers were required to make it happen.

All of this sounds like any family’s worse nightmare. However, my sister, brother and I had been a bit estranged for some time prior to this. Not in an “I am never going to speak to you again” way, but if my mother had died suddenly on October 5, we all agree that our relationships would have suffered. Our mother was all that was holding us together.  During those extra 6 days mom “negotiated,” my brother, sister and I, along with our father, came together as a family in a way that bonded us forever. During those 6 days, we each put it all out there, our hopes, our fears, our anger, our sadness, and trusted that the other person would hold that feeling, understand it and take care of it and us. And that is exactly what happened. We were there for each other in a way we had not been since probably when we were very small children.

It was beautiful. It was and is such a gift as that trust continues to this day. Our deepest sadness is that mom had to leave in order for it to happen. But we understand, and so treasure it all the more.

Tonight, my siblings, my father and some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will gather to remember mom. Because I am who I am, I needed to prepare a little “ritual,” involving a candle and some poetry. We will say the “Lord’s Prayer” , because that is what my family is comfortable with—and I can handle it. I have been saying the Mourner’s Kaddish for my mom every time I have been in a synagogue, standing up with the mourners at every opportunity. It has given me more comfort than I can say.  I believe my mom appreciates it.

This morning I went to the cemetery with my dad to visit my mom’s gravesite. He put a rose at her grave site. I, of course, placed a small stone there.  When we got back in the car, I said to my dad that I feel like the only spiritual one in the family. He said, “You got that from your mother. She was very spiritual, but she hung around me too long.” (They were married 61 years.)

Thanks, Mom. I’ll put that in my pile of gifts that I thank you for every day, along with your lasagna recipe and the ability to cook for 100 or more people and not bat an eye.

Happy reading,

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

“The Meaning of Life is That It Stops”* – L’vayat hameit/Assisting the Dead & the Bereaved

(*~ Franz Kafka)

What a journey we are on with the Eilu D’varim prayer. Last month, we were dancing with newlyweds. This month we are burying the dead.  In fact, this month’s mitzvah (good deed) L’vayat hameit/helping the deceased have a proper burial and comforting the mourners is one of the highest we can perform, because the dead cannot return the favor.

It has always struck me how completely right-on Judaism is when it comes to the rituals surrounding death and mourning.  From what we say when we hear the news to how intense and how long our grieving lasts, these rituals require the participants to face the reality of the situation, provide for the inevitable and necessary grief and bring us out of this difficult process healthy and whole.

I remember my first experience attending a Jewish funeral. It was many years ago, prior to my conversion to Judaism. I had attended funerals for Catholic family members and Christian friends, so the funeral part was not new to me. However, there was so much different that took place during the Jewish funeral that, I have to admit, I felt as though I had never been to a funeral before.

Even now so many years later, what stands out for me was actually participating in the burial. Since this funeral occurred not long after my grandmother had passed away, I was still feeling sad about walking away from her gravesite, leaving her casket unattended awaiting others to bury her. Now, here I was actually able to make sure this individual was secure in his final resting place, sheltered by the blanket of dirt I helped lay there. Was it difficult? Yes, I sobbed like a baby as I dropped my shovels full of dirt in and listened to them hit the casket wood. Yet the finality of it, the reality of it, was so healing.

The following books are excellent resources for discussing this important life cycle event with children and learning about the mitzvah (good deed) of L’vayat hameit/helping the deceased have a proper burial and comforting the mourners:

Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Mellonie. Illustrated by Robert Ingpen. © 1983. Bantam Books.  Ages 3-7.  In this simple, yet beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations, the idea that everything has a beginning and an ending and a lifetime in between is explained in a way that even a young child can comprehend.

Where is Grandpa Dennis? by Michelle Shapiro Abraham. Illustrated by Janice Fried. © 2009. URJ Press. Ages 6-10. In this highly sensitive and beautifully illustrated book, a young girl wants to know about her grandfather who died long before she was born. As her mother explains Jewish traditions such as placing a rock on the gravestone and lighting a yahrzeit (anniversary) candle for remembering a loved one who has died, she searches for the best way to explain where Grandpa Dennis is now.  Together mother and daughter discover an answer that feels right for them.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown. Illustrated by Marc Brown. © 1996. Little Brown and Company. Ages 5-9. This excellent book discusses the difference between alive and dead, the different religious and cultural death customs and how a person might feel about the death of a loved one or pet. A great resource for parents.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. Illustrated by Erik Blegvad. © 1971. Simon & Schuster. Ages 5-9. When Barney, the cat, dies his owner must think of ten good things to say about him at the back yard funeral. He can only come up with nine until his dad helps him think of a very special tenth.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances by Lenore Look. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. © 2011. Schwartz & Wade Books. Ages 8-10. Alvin Ho, who is afraid of everything, agrees to go to his GungGung’s (grandfather’s) best friend’s funeral. Even with all his preparations, he is not sure he is brave enough to look death in the face and survive.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. © 1977. HarperCollinsPublishers. Ages 9-12.  When the new kid – a girl – beats Jess in the first fifth-grade school yard race of the year, he is unspeakably angry. But then he finds himself defending her, Leslie, to the other kids and a forever friendship forms.

The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck. © 1948. Harper Trophy. Ages. 11-14. In this classic story by a Nobel Prize winning author, Kino, a farmer’s son, and Jiya, a fisherman’s son, live on a small island where everyone is afraid of something in the natural world. When tragedy strikes, they both learn an important lesson about how to appreciate everything life has to offer.

Two additional, yet out-of-print, picture books are worth looking for in your local library or online used book websites (i.e. www.abebooks.com/ , www.betterworldbooks.com/ ) A Candle for Grandpa: A Guide to the Jewish Funeral for Children and Parents by David Techner and Judith Hirt-Manheimer provides an excellent and detailed explanation of the Jewish mourning process for families with young children. Kaddish for Grandpa in Jesus’ Name Amen by James Howe can assist a family with interfaith connections in understanding and honoring both Christian and Jewish tradition after a parent’s (or other close relative’s) death.

Please feel free to use the discussion questions and activities provided in the Speak Volumes Guide for this month to help you discuss this topic with your children.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from publishers as review copies, my personal collection and my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,
I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Happy Birthday, Trees! Tu B’Shevat 5772

The holiday of Tu B’Shevat – the New Year of the Trees – began this evening.  Tomorrow many people will be out celebrating by planting trees, cleaning up parks and doing other tasks to celebrate the earth and its resources. I did not want to overlook this special holiday in the middle of all my work exploring other Jewish values this year.

Here is my list of Tu B’Shevat Books for 2012:

Green Bible Stories for Children by Tami Lehman-Wilzig. Illustrated by Durga Yael Bernahard. ©2011. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 8-11. In this extraordinary book, several Torah stories are looked at for their view toward protecting the environment. The story is retold in age appropriate language and then a series of activities is provided to link the story to the world today.


Dear Tree by Doba Rivka Weber. Illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. ©2010. Hachai Publishing. In this endearing story, a young boy writes a New Year’s (Tu B’Shevat)  letter to his tree wishing it all good things for the year to come. The lovely illustrations show, in detail, exactly what the boy hopes the tree receives – sunlight, rain, birds, bees, strength, etc. The boy promises to take good care of his tree and knows, in return, the tree will provide fruit and shade.  As appropriate for Earth Day as for Tu B’Shevat.  (Ages 3-8)

Gabby & Grandma Go Green written and illustrated by Monica Wellington. ©2011. Beginning with sewing the bags they will use to go shopping, Gabby and her grandmother shop at the Farmer’s Market, walk to the park, recycle their plastic bottles and newspapers and check out Earth Day books at the library. Instructions for making cloth bags and many “Green Tips” accompany the simple text. The brightly colored pictures are a collage of cut-out photographs and gouache on paper artwork.  (Ages 3-7)

A Grand Old Tree written and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma. ©2005. Arthur A. Levine Books. The life cycle of trees is explained in this marvelously simple yet eloquent book. The bright, colorful tissue paper collage illustrations show a tree filled with life, branching out, creating new trees and finally aging until it’s branches wither back into the earth where it gives life to another generation of trees. (ages 3-7)

Who Will Plant a Tree? By Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Tom Leonard. ©2010. Sleeping Bear Press. An amazing fact of nature is the different ways seeds have found to disperse themselves. Some seeds have developed burrs to stick to the fur coats of black bears, others have tough coverings to withstand being coughed up by an owl or pooped out by an elephant, and even others have developed parachutes to float in the wind. Whatever it is seeds find their way around the environment in a variety of interesting and wily ways. Using simple language and extraordinarily beautiful illustrations, this book for young readers makes it clear that from horses to humans, we all have a role in planting trees around the world. (Ages 4-8)

As you find ways to celebrate the trees around you during this Tu B’Shevat remember these beautiful words from Rabbi Shneour Zalman (1745-1813):

“All that we see — The heaven, the earth, and all that fills it — All these things are the external garments of God.”

As such, they should be respected and protected.  May you have a wonderful holiday.

Happy reading.

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publisher, my local public library or are from my own collection.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

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