Monday, June 4, 2018

Chai Five

“Chai” is the number 18 in Hebrew and the word is associated with good luck and life. We are hopeful that this will be auspicious in this year of 2018. “Five” is because we are now five months into the year and, so far, there have been big changes and moves that, hopefully, portend good things to come.

Since my last blog post towards the end of December 2017, we had a winter holiday that was filled with friends and family joining us from many places to celebrate our ties to each other and renew our far-flung relationships while having a great time together. We made trips to various Disney parks and Universal Studios. We had two different versions of latkes for Hanukkah this year, one vegan and delicious, although I would not have thought it possible to have good latkes without oil or eggs. Sami has honed her pasta-making skills with the help of our friend Susan’s pasta machine and fresh herbs picked directly from pots thriving in Florida’s warm weather right outside our door. The giant gingerbread houses in Disney were just as beautiful as always. Ari (who came in time to hang out with his Aunt Rif) and I did a lot of bonding as we were delayed three and a half hours waiting to ride the banshee in Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is the best ride ever, anywhere, and is almost worth the three-hour wait… almost. I was so excited that Rif was able to ride it also, and she enjoyed it so much that we did it again in the next few days. Ari treated us to an incredible evening at The California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Hotel where we drank a lot of Sancerre, viewed the Magic Kingdom fireworks from their outdoor observation deck, enjoyed a wonderful meal and belatedly celebrated Rif’s birthday. They now have a varied and imaginative vegetarian/vegan menu. Yay! Rif joined us on Christmas Eve after a week-long birthday cruise with Paul, who flew back home for his job.

Jess and Izzy used the vacation time to fly to Red Rock outside of Las Vegas. Using our infrequently-used RCI Timeshare, they were able to book beautiful apartments for Izzy’s rock-climbing group and their families. Though we missed them this year, they had a wonderful time. Alex and Yona joined us here in Florida for a few days and Sami got a chance to bond with her youngest sister again.

December 24 marked Adele and Larry’s 50th wedding anniversary and the family got together here for a small celebration to mark the occasion. Aunt Ruth’s family, while they were not here physically, contributed a great deal to making the occasion extra special. Beth, Rick and Brenna stayed with our friend Larry for a few days. Erica and Ava stayed with Adele and Larry in a nearby home that also belongs to our friend Larry. We were also joined by Jamie, Andy, Presley, Evan and, of course, Ken and Randi with whom they were staying.

Ari left a bit before New Year’s Eve to join his friends abroad in the Alps for a ski vacation. The rest of us had an enjoyable New Year’s Eve party at our home together.

Right after New Year’s, we had the pleasure of the company of some delightful guests who were here to either run the Disney Princess Marathons, or cheer them on! The daughter of Ken and Randi’s former neighbors and a former student of both Saul and me, Marcia, has run many races in the past. This year, she was joined by a Disney newbie and an English/Irish friend of Ari’s, Jennifer, along with Jen’s mother, Margaret, and friend, Seonid. We all had the best time together! Saul and I usually try to avoid Disney during the marathons, but this gave us a chance to see another side of the Disney experience. We could not believe the size and scope of this undertaking, and how thousands of volunteers are organized to provide every service that the runners might require. Jen fell during the full marathon, but completed the race anyway, determined trooper that she is. We met her in the medical tent where they were treating her scraped hands and legs and serious bruises. Jen was about to go on an American tour playing violin with the London Philharmonic, and luckily, the scrapes and bruises were not enough to interfere with her playing. We celebrated the completion of the marathons by both Marcia and Jen with pink iridescent champagne. Rif stayed beyond New Year’s for an additional six weeks and her nursing skills came in very handy for both Jen and Saul. We were joined by Marcia’s mom, Ilene, who stayed with our friend Larry. Also, at the end of the marathon, Marcia’s dad, Arthur, flew down and stayed with Larry for a night ahead of a Disney cruise the three of them were taking.

Saul was due to have hernia surgery right after their marathon, so Ari’s group moved to a nearby hotel for a few days that had a transport to the Disney parks. Saul had a small complication after the surgery and began copiously bleeding from a hematoma that had developed. The watchful Celebration Hospital staff was right there to staunch the blood immediately, but an outpatient procedure turned into an overnight. For a month, the hematoma continued to grow despite being drained by the doctor, so a procedure was scheduled to drain it surgically. The night before the scheduled procedure, we decided to take the Toy Story Mania ride at Hollywood Studios. As Saul was getting out of the car, after getting his highest score ever, the baseball-sized hematoma just burst spraying dead blood everywhere, soaking his shirt, shorts, shoes, car and floor as we got off. In the first confused moments, the staff was “frozen,” but they finally sprang into action and managed to get us to a back hallway, where Sami was sent off with a chit by the staff to buy him a new shirt and shoes at a nearby gift shop and an ambulance was called. Rif grabbed a bunch of clean towels from a cast member who was rushing by to clean up the mess on the ride. Saul immediately reacted with his usual weird sense of humor as he exited the ride, announcing he had been shot, since the ride is a goofy virtual shooting gallery. In this day and age of active shooters, he was soundly reprimanded by me, even though I was panicked about how serious his condition might be. When we arrived at the emergency room and they cleaned up his wound, they gave him the choice of spending the night at home before returning for his morning procedure. We were very happy to be given that opportunity because as we left, we could see that the emergency waiting room was SRO with people suffering from the flu. After the procedure, Rif hovered over him like a mother hen until she was satisfied that all was healing properly. He only has three little scars now.

For the next month that Rif was here, we tried to do everything in the parks that we could ahead of her annual pass expiring. Disney kindly agreed to extend her pass for an extra week because of Saul’s mishap. Epcot was having its International Festival of the Arts, so we were able to get some pretty neat photographs and participate in painting a mural. At the beginning of February, Paul flew in for a few days and we all got to watch our hometown Eagles win the Super Bowl. In London, instead of his usual Thanksgiving party, Ari had months before decided to host a Super Bowl party. He was more than pleased that the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, and was ecstatic when they actually won! His sister arranged a party package of Eagles stuff which arrived in London just ahead of his party. He hadn’t wanted to order it earlier for fear of jinxing them. Paul and Rif flew home at the beginning of February so she could begin her treatments at Sloan Kettering.

Saul and I lost a bunch of our beautiful plantings this past winter when the temperatures unusually plunged to below freezing for a few days in a row. As of this writing, most of the plantings have sprouted again, and we have had the most delicious peaches from our new tree. The peaches were so juicy and sweet that we were inspired to buy both a mango and an avocado tree. We planted a new type of heirloom tomato from seeds (Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomatoes) that was very successful, prolific, colorful and delicious. We shared our seedlings with friends and neighbors who are all enjoying them as much as we are. Our synagogue had a costumed Casino Night during Purim and it was a blast! Ken and Randi treated us to an evening at The California Grill for our birthdays. Right after, we were invited to a fund raising benefit as the guests of some friends, and we spent an incredible evening being feted at M Bar in Orlando that has the most fantastic collection of restored vintage cars we have ever seen. That month, Jess took Izzy to Washington, D.C. to join in the huge protest march for better gun control laws.

Before we knew it, it was time to prepare for Passover. Saul, Sami, and I began the preparations, and the whole family agreed to have an entirely vegetarian Passover holiday this year along with the kitniyot that were allowable last year according to our Conservative rabbis. All this made the preparations so much easier this year, and everything was just as delicious. Jess flew down with Yona a few days ahead of time to help in the preparations, and we managed to squeeze in some fun time as well. Alex drove down with Izzy, making the 15-hour drive in one day, and bringing us samples of his home-brewed beer, which we stashed away for after the holiday. Ari also flew in a few days before so we had lots of help in the prep and lots of time to hang out together. Beth flew in from Arizona with her friend Tammy right before the second seder. We also invited a new guest, Sam, a lovely woman with whom we have become friendly at SOJC. During chol hamoed, we were able to spend a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Saul’s cousin Abie’s sister-in-law and her daughter and grandchildren. Another exciting event that took place during Passover, was that our friends, Susan and Ted (Susan is our friend Larry’s sister) officially moved here from Chicago to a house just down the street. Their home is the reverse floor plan of ours with a few more of the “bells and whistles” that were available at the time they were built. We are so thrilled to have so many of our friends and family joining us here in Florida over the last five years!

At the end of the holiday, we spent another wonderful day at Epcot with our neighbors, Gary and Terry, spending the evening playing trivia at Disney Beach Club’s bar, Martha’s Vineyard. We spent a spectacular day at Bok Tower Gardens with Murvin and Linda, my coincidental email crossovers, who were here on their annual timeshare vacation at nearby Orange Lake Resort. We passed a pleasant few hours listening to the carillon concert, having lunch in the Bok Tower cafeteria and then enjoying dinner together at Sakura Asian Fusion. Passover being well over for this year, Sami decided to hone her cooking skills making naturally-colored pasta a la Salty Seattle. She ordered such esoterica as spirulina and butterfly pea flower powder and produced the most gorgeous natural pastas. Then, we were joined for a few days by my second cousin, Mark, who flew down so that we could engage in genealogy research based on old books, photos and a chuppah cloth we created for Jess and Erica’s b’not mitzvah many years ago with the lineage of our family depicted on it. Mark is the grandson of my grandfather Eugene’s sister, Gussie. Even though we grew up in the same area, we were just meeting for the first time. The meeting was very productive. Mark has done extensive research for many years. As a result, we all learned a great deal about our families, and Mark has introduced us online to distant cousins still in Hungary. As Mark left, we met old friends and neighbors from our first home in Wyncote where we lived across the street from each other for almost 20 years as we raised our kids. Vince and Fran were in Orlando celebrating their wedding anniversary. We took them to breakfast at Woodsby’s Countryside Café and then we spent the most lovely day together in Animal Kingdom, lunching at the Satu’li Café and viewing Rivers of Light from the first row on the most perfect of evenings.

To wind up the month of May, we had a congenial Mother’s Day very late brunch, and a Memorial Day barbecue, in addition to our usual Friday night Shabbat dinners. Gary wheeled over his grill when our electric starter began tripping our fuses. While Larry ran out to get a new one, Saul managed to get our Kamodo started manually and eventually, we managed to get everything grilled. Erik and Haley came for a visit and also to celebrate a special birthday of Randi’s sister, Lori. Our May has been unusually rainy for Florida and Memorial Day was no exception. While some of our plantings have been very happy, our beautiful tomato plants have been overwatered and a lot of the tomatoes split. Hopefully, there will be a nice mix of sunshine and showers ahead.

Susan and Ted have been wonderful about entertaining us. Susan is a great and adventurous cook and having a meal there is really a special occasion. Ted makes a mean blue martini with Magellan gin. I have been collecting honey from all over the world for many years, but as I get it, I have been stashing it all away in an out-of-the-way closet. Lately, perhaps inspired by Susan’s efforts to get her new home in order, I have been looking at my own with a fresh eye and decided to move some things around. As a result, I moved some books, bought some wine racks, cleared out some junk from a kitchen cabinet, and finally got to play with and organize a collection at which I had not looked in many years. I’m now in the process of creating a glass-doored display cabinet for the honey and updating my kitchen cabinets, counters, sink and dishwasher. After Passover, I spent four days with my old washing machine and dryer, catching up with dirty laundry, linens and towels. Jessica has been after me for years to replace them and after I finally got through Mt. St. Laundry, I finally decided to do just that. I am so thrilled with my new top-of-the-line LGs.

The biggest changes came this year when Izzy decided that she wanted to attend American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, NC, and was accepted. Then Sami, who was wait-listed at New College, in Sarasota, FL, (the only college she wanted) was accepted also in a second round of acceptances. Jessica and Alex sold their home in Cherry Hill, NJ, at a tidy profit to be able to afford all of this and moved into an even larger, nicer, rented home. While waiting to hear from New College, Sami began an Associates Degree program in hospitality management over the summer at nearby Valencia College. Now that she has been accepted, she plans to pursue both an Associate degree from Valencia and a Bachelors degree from New College by attending summer sessions at Valencia. We couldn’t be any prouder of our family. We are grateful that just when it seems our lives couldn’t get any better what seems to be dark clouds gathering on the horizon develop silver linings. May it always be so!

1 comment:

jlwpearl said...

I kept reading and reading waiting for the big news, and finally found it in the very last paragraph! I’m so proud of both of my girls for their academic success and the amazing opportunities that they are going to have thanks to the help and generosity of their 3 grandparents.