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Showing posts from November, 2014

REVIEW & EXCERPT: There’s a Shark in the Mikvah! A mitzvah book with BITE?

If I say “mikveh book,” do you groan inside?  Do you think of a book that might be Important to read, with a capital I?  Heavy, serious, but not all that fun? This is not that book. The hilarious cover gives that away immediately: This book is called There’s a Shark in the Mikvah , and it’s a new collection of stories written by Penny Thau and Naava Swirsky.  Be prepared.  This book has bite, by which I mean attitude.  There are no bland platitudes here about the centrality of the mikveh to Jewish life… just fun, spicy anecdotes that actually add up to a very substantial whole. You’re not only going to want to read it over and over but also buy copies for every new kallah (bride) you know to help them love this mitzvah that often gets a lousy rap.  It’s just a shame they didn’t make it in a laminated, waterproof editing that you could bring along to your pre-mikveh soak. And I’m so excited to be able to share an excerpt from this book with you here.

It’s Kislev – is your pocket full of heart?

Want to see something cool? Both of my kids’ schools are making a huge deal out of something I’ve literally never noticed.  The name of the current Hebrew month, Kislev (כסלו), can be divided - with only a little wizardry - into two separate words:  kis (כיס/pocket) and lev (לב/heart).  (That’s the wizardry – the “vav” is swapped out for a “vais”/”vet”.) So GZ brought home this “mitzvah note” project from Kitah Alef (Grade One), where we have to use this month fill up his “pocket” with love and nachas. Which I think is just an absolutely terrific excuse to praise a kid who’s three months into his first real year of school and hovering halfway between feeling confident because he knows the routines and feeling like he’s drowning in the despair that comes from realizing there are so many months (and years) still to go. Very cool.  Why didn’t they do this at either of my kids’ Jewish schools back in Canada?  No idea. A good friend of mine growing up, who moved from Russia to Israel

My mother’s favourite* joke

  My mother has a joke.  Maybe you’ve heard it before? So a guy goes to the doctor.  Says, “Doctor, it hurts when I go like this.” And the doctor says, “So don’t go like that.” This was almost literally my conversation today, with my second orthopedist this month, about the unbearable pain in my right foot. My problem is that it only hurts when I’m barefoot.  Put on a pair of shoes and I’m Wonder Woman.  I leave everybody in my dust.  Take them off… and I’m Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma, barely able to get out of bed. This pain has a name:  PTTI.  That’s its name in Hebrew, too.  Posterior Tibial Tendon Insufficiency.  Don’t Google it; the pictures are horrific and mine really isn’t that bad (see below).  Basically, it means that the flat feet I’ve had my whole life have bottomed out completely.  So today I met with Ortho #2, Specialist Foot Ortho Guy.  Ortho #1 was a regular ortho, non-specialist.  Both very nice and personable despite the long lines outside their doors. 

9 things you’ve got to stop saying about mental illness… and 4 questions to ask yourself instead.

NOTE: One year after my brother Eli's death in 2014, I published a book about the intertwining of our lives and his struggle with schizophrenia. This post and many other writings are included, in slightly different form, in that book. Please wait until the ride has come to a full and complete stop is now available in print and Kindle editions. Through laughter and tears, I invite you to come share my final journey with my brother. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some of these phrases are so deeply ingrained that you might not even realize you’re talking about mental illness when you say them. “You’re driving me crazy.” “I’m feeling schizophrenic about the situation.” “Quit being so paranoid!” “Are you totally nuts?” “He broke up with that psycho girlfriend.” “Maybe you’re hearing things.” “She’s a little disturbed.” “Welcome to the loony bin.” “He has issues .” Oh, yeah… and then there’s the Big #10:  “mental illness.”

The family tree of grief – a quote

Have you lost somebody you loved? Of course you have.  I know from all the people who spoke to me and shared stories after my brother Eli died in the spring.  Maybe you told me yours.  I loved hearing those stories.  I don’t know what I will do with them yet, but they are all still alive, here in my mind, waiting to come out in some way. This quote jumped out at me over Shabbos, and I wanted to share it. "It's a sort of kinship, as though there is a family tree of grief. On this branch the lost children, on this the suicided parents, here the beloved mentally ill siblings. When something terrible happens, you discover all of a sudden that you have a new set of relatives, people with whom you can speak in the shorthand of cousins." - Elizabeth McCracken, from the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination Will you believe me if I tell you that a book about grief can be funny?  Happy?  Optimistic?  "This is the happiest story in the world, with the

MamaLand Review: Elisha Davidson, the kosher Harry Potter –?

Are you ready for a wild ride?  I hope so, because writer M. R. (Rhonda) Attar has just released the first in what promises to be a trilogy of adventure books about young Elisha Davidson, Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire (Menorah Books:  2014). I’d call the book weird and wonderful.  But I’d also caution that it’s not for the youngest readers, or maybe for any reader younger than 12 or 13.  There are scenes that are frightening and/or violent, like in the first chapter, where a renowned professor passes out era pool of blood.  (He remains comatose for the entire book.) This is an ambitious book, weaving hundreds of years of mystical Jewish teachings into an exciting modern-day story.  It reads quickly as long as you don’t let yourself get too hung up on the details.  But that might be just me. Like I said:  weird… and wonderful. There are enough parallels to the Harry Potter books to either delight or annoy fans, depending on how they feel about such things. 

Enter to win: “Chanukah Monsters” Chanukah Disaster giveaway!

Chanukah’s coming… What could go wrong??? Well, Murphy’s Law of Holidays says anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong when it comes to holiday seasons.  But there’s no reason we can’t laugh about it now. Tell me all about your biggest, baddest, funniest, craziest or most MONSTROUS Chanukah disaster and you could win my book Chanukah Monsters (softcover, 8.5” x 8.5”, full-colour paperback, retail value $8.99 on, including mailing anywhere in the United States or Canada (sorry, other people; I love you, but you’re too expensive!). One winner will receive one copy of Chanukah Monsters , by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod (hey, that’s me!). Second and third runners-up will receive a free e-copy of any of my books available in digital form (winner’s choice). Come on… think up your worst disaster.  Get it off your chest and help the rest of us smile when we’re thinking about what could go wrong (or right) this year.  It doesn’t have to involve fire, or latke poisoning, but it

FREE Chanukah Monsters colouring book

Like it, Share it, pass it along!  Here’s the link: (You may have to join CurrClick if you haven't already, but membership is free, and this was easier than hosting the PDF myself). The colouring book is based on the artist’s original sketches for my new book, Chanukah Monsters, with brief all-new text added by moi . While you’re at it, if you like the colouring book, check out the original Chanukah Monsters , available now for print and Kindle from Enjoy, and if you do, pass it along to a friend!   Tzivia / צִיבְיָה Sign up now for Jewish parenting ideas, inspirations, and freebies (no spam!)

Why I wrote a Jewish book about Christmas.

I’ve spent years creating picture books, stories and curriculum materials on every possible Jewish theme.  But when I sat down to write my first chapter book for slightly older readers, I surprised myself: It turns out it’s all about Christmas. It’s called No Santa! , and there’s a picture of the jolly guy himself right there on the cover – chased by a menorah. Why did I write this book?  Why davka (specifically) about Christmas? Because Christmas just is .  Even for Jewish kids, if they’re growing up in North America (or any country other than Israel), it’s not possible to avoid it or sidestep it.  And many kids, even if they are Jewish, grow up celebrating it in some way. Oh, we never SAID we were “celebrating Christmas” when we were growing up.  My parents would never have allowed that.  We never had a tree – that was waaaay over the line.  But we had stockings.  Beautiful felt stockings, hand-decorated in red and green and sequins.  And every year, on Christmas morning, we’