The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

And Other Stories


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All Roads (Flights) Lead Here

I leave for a media trip to Israel and I was asked to write a tweet about what I was looking forward to the most.  In so few characters and with a more general audience, it’s hard to put what I’m feeling into words.  I kept it simple and said the White City in Tel Aviv and the Old City in Jerusalem. Of course, experiencing the blend of modern and ancient that Israel possesses is incredible. I am happy to be doing everything from a tour of the Soda Stream factory to being moved by once again visiting Yad Vashem to seeing the beautiful Baha’i Gardens in Haifa.  There is one thing that I am looking forward to more than that though.  It’s not a place – it’s a feeling.

When I visited Israel for the first time in 2006, I was overwhelmed by many things.  What stood out to me the most though, was not the history of the country itself, although that was impressive, it was the knowledge that I stepped off of a plane and into a place that held so many memories for the people who were the most important to me.  My grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, visited in the late 1960’s and fell in love with this new nation.  My parents visited the country in the 1980’s and could not stop raving about it.  It was, and is, still a very important part of our family history.

When my mother passed away 4 months ago, I made a promise to myself to find ways to honour her memory whenever and wherever I could.  I never thought that I would be travelling so soon after her death, but when my friend Shai asked me about coming, one thought really struck me. I could say Mourner’s Kaddish (a prayer that you say for 11 months after the death of a parent or for 30 days after the passing of a child, spouse or sibling) for my mother at The Western Wall – the holiest site where I can pray as a Jew.  I am not religious in the least, but my mother was spiritual, and this is something that I can do for her and it will be especially meaningful in the land that she loved so much.  Once I finish, I will put a paper in the wall with what is believed to be, a written prayer to G-d.  Spoiler alert – it will be prayers of good health for my family, particularly, my oldest sister Michele who is also battling breast cancer.

On my first trip to Israel, I wanted a picture at the Wall simply because my grandparents and parents had photos from there and it was a chance for me to recreate a moment in time, even if my relatives could not be with me.  This time, my wish is that somehow, my mother will feel that I am doing this for her and that my grandparents will know too.

Not too long ago, when I was cleaning out my mother’s papers, I came across some letters that my grandmother wrote about her own trip to the country.  She wrote about how much she and my grandfather loved it and were so excited to be there.  She said that at dinner one night, they were served oranges from a grove that my grandfather owned, and he was bursting with pride.  I can picture the look on my quiet, unassuming Zaydie’s face.  To know that I’m going to be back in this country, a place that was so important to my family and to be able to honour my wonderful mother is what I am most looking forward to.

 

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100 Days, 100s of Memories, 100s of Items

Mummy and Me Bday

It’s been 100 days since my mother died.  That’s just a little over 3 months.  It’s the time in the mourning process when you get the head bob – you know those people who sympathetically look at you, nod and say: “Oh, it’s so good that you had CLOSURE….”  “She’s in a better place…” “At least she isn’t suffering.” “Every day gets a little easier, doesn’t it?” Grief is not something that can be wrapped up into a neat little package, and there is no timeline.  When people give me the closure speech, I often want to say what does that even mean?  Closure in that I realize that my mother isn’t coming back?  I know that she isn’t.  Closure in that there was nothing left unsaid?  That’s true, but can be more properly defined as a comfort, not closure.  Closure implies a sense of resolution, and I don’t know anyone who can properly resolve themselves to the finality of losing a loved one.  It also doesn’t get easier with time, every day is different.

People mean well, but it’s a long process.  There is a beginning to grief, but no middle and no end.  There is just a level of coping.  I can get up, go to work, do many things as well as I did before.  The brief fog that was part of the early days of loss has lifted.  I can carry on conversations with people and they would never know that there is anything wrong unless I told them.  It just isn’t something that you can adjust to overnight or over the course of three months.  Keeping occupied helps – it’s when I stop to think about things that reality sets in.

Outside of work, upcoming travel, socializing and settling my mother’s affairs, I need another project to keep me busy.  Something useful…something cleansing…and there is nothing more cleansing than a good declutter.  I’ve recently watched a number of YouTube videos where Influencers declutter cosmetics.  I’m a little obsessed with these videos, but I saw another video where the Influencer decided to get rid of 1,000 items from their home.  That’s a little ambitious for me, I did a huge declutter in 2015 – here is a small sample of things that I got rid of:        https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/konfessions/

I did think carefully about it, and while 1,000 seems to be a daunting number, why not try for 300?   I’ll provide a progress report for you with every 100 items that I’m getting rid of and a few special features.  Some items will be thrown out, most will be donated and a small amount will be sold.  I’m excited to simplify things and to have a goal in mind.  My mother would definitely approve.


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A Sign From Above

Mom Blog

Sorry for the language!!!!!!!

When you lose someone that you love, you wait for a sign that they are still somehow connected to you.  On the day of my mother’s funeral, March 5th, it was beautiful and  sunny with just a little coolness in the air.  When we got to the cemetery, early in the afternoon and they lowered her into the ground, all of a sudden, it got so warm and the sun started shining even more brightly.  You can think I’m crazy if you want, but I knew that it was a sign from our mother that she was at peace and happy with her roadside spot in her final resting place.  Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a better spot for her – she was always a nosy parker, and now, she can watch the world go by, see who will join her next at Mount Sinai Memorial Park and even have a clear view of the planes flying overhead (she always had to point out whenever a plane flew past her condo or over her car, or just anytime she saw one.  I called her “the air-traffic controller”).

The second sign came once shiva (7 days of mourning in Judaism) was over.  We had lit a candle that was supposed to last for 7 days.  No, we didn’t get a lame miracle where it lasted for 14 days.  The interesting thing was that one the seventh day, it went out when my oldest sister left the room, and I was alone.  Why is this interesting you ask?  When my mother died, my oldest sister left the room, I was holding my mother’s hand, and within 30 seconds of her leaving the room, my mother passed away.  I don’t think that this was a sign that I was her favourite, really her actions demonstrated this, or at least I like to think so.   It was, I believe,  because she did not want my sister, who is also suffering from breast cancer, to be more upset than she needed to be.  I think that she knew that I needed to be there at that moment, but she also knew that it wasn’t the best thing for either of my sisters.  When the shiva candle went out when I was alone in the room, I think it was just reinforcing the message.

After that, there was really nothing.  I was really upset and giving up hope that I’d ever hear from my mother again.  Day after day would pass, and nothing.  As much as I miss her, I thought maybe I’d have to live with those two tiny messages.  Then today, something amazing happened.  I called my oldest sister crying because it’s our Mom’s birthday on April 15, and now is the time that I’d start looking for cards for her.  It made no sense, but it really bothered me today. My sister told me that I could still get her a card, but that only made me cry harder because I couldn’t give it to her.  I mean, where am I supposed to send it?  Judy Schneiderman, C/O Heaven, #1 Divine Drive, Cloud 13, 90210?

Anyway, I decided to torture myself and look at birthday cards for her.  Maybe I would buy one, just for old time’s sake, and leave it at the cemetery for her.  As I was leaving the store, Papyrus to be exact, I spotted a table of gift books.  They had some cute ones, Advice from Coco Chanel, The Newlywed Cookbook, among others.  Then, I spotted the very book that you see up there in the photo, “You Drive Like An A$$h&le”.  Why is this so special?  My mother used to have the worst road rage, and that was one of her rants!  She would scream something to this effect, shake her tiny fist at the offending driver, then flip them the bird.  She said other things, but I’m a lady, and would never type them here.  I would then make fun of her, and she’d smile her million dollar smile, after telling me that she wasn’t wrong. This was the sign that I was looking for.  What are the odds that I would walk into a card store looking for a birthday greeting for my deceased road-raged mother, and spot this book, which I’ve never seen before?  I think it was my mother’s way of giving me a little reminder of her, and making me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.

You can think I’m making things up, or reading into things.  You may have your own tale of seeing a butterfly, a dragonfly, a ladybug, a mysterious phone call or even feel someone flick your hair.  That’s great for you, as for me, I’ll take this sign from my little Mommy any day of the week.

 


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A Eulogy And More

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One day, I was rolling my eyes at my mother as she said something completely inappropriate.  I told her that just because she is older doesn’t mean that she can say everything that she thinks.  She corrected me immediately, and said, “Oh Jill, that’s where you are wrong.  I don’t just say everything I think, I say everything that I feel, and I feel a lot.”  At the time, I laughed, because in true Mummy fashion, it was a pretty funny statement, and she had a little evil gleam in her eye – the one that she got when she thought that she was getting away with something.  Well, Mummy, I feel a lot too.  I feel happy that you were my mother, but so sad that you aren’t here with me right now.  Not quite two weeks ago, on March 3, my mother died.  I’m lucky to have so many memories, but as some of you know, losing a loved one is hard.  Over the next little bit, you are going to be hearing more about her, and the process of putting it all back together again. I thought I’d start with my Eulogy for her:

Karl Geurs and Carter Crocker once wrote: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.” That tomorrow came sooner than we all hoped but this quote described to me everything that I’ve ever needed to know about our wonderful mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend, Judy.

Mummy – you are the bravest person in the world.  Forgive me, I can’t use the past tense just yet.  It’s too soon to think of a world without you.  You re-started your life, moving to Toronto, making an entirely new network of friends through bridge and pottery.  You tried new things, you were open to living a new life and you kept your old friends in the process.  You did things on your own and never complained.  You faced the deaths of so many people that you loved, including your parents, our beloved grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, your aunts and uncles and cousins that you were so close to.  You continued to fight throughout your illnesses surprising even the doctors with your determination and moxie.  You constantly surprised everyone else, including me with your chutzpah and hilarity.  You are the only person that I know that could be bribed by fudge and jelly beans.

At under 5 feet tall, you never looked like you could take on the world, but you are definitely the strongest person that I’ve ever met.  You suffered more than you ever should have with the pain and fatigue from cancer – especially near the end.  You bounced back after not just one, but two heart attacks.  Your other issues could fill a medical journal, yet you so rarely complained.  We used to joke around with each other about your illnesses – either calling you a disease of the week movie or telling you that I never knew which charity walk to do for you, Heart and Stroke, Breast Cancer, Diabetes or Gout.  You would always say – do the walk for gout – no one ever does that one because it hurts so damn much that no one can walk.    You are such a survivor that I called you a cockroach, saying that you, and only you could survive a nuclear war.  I asked you once “Mummy, how do you do it?” and you said “How do I do what?” and I said “Survive” and I’ll never forget your answer.  “Because, I want to live”.  And live you did.

You lived a big life.  You had many friends; a close family and so many of us loved and admired you.  You had a curious nature, a wicked sense of humour, a bratty disposition, but you were the most caring person.  You worried about everyone when the weather was poor.  A drop of rain on the ground was the only thing, aside from mice that you ever seemed to fear.  Not for yourself, but for your children.  I always got a frantic call from you warning me of the rain or snow.  I had to reassure you that I had a coat and umbrella with me but unless I was at home, you were still fearful that sweet little me would melt.  You were modern in thought and always told us that women could do anything that men could do (except maybe open a jar and kill a spider).   You cared for and sacrificed for us and we won’t forget that.

I hope that we can all be as brave as you are Mummy.  When you lose your mother, you feel so alone in the world.  That person, the only person in some cases, that knows your history is lost to you forever.  I know that you’d want us to go on, and live and stay strong, and we will, but it’s going to be so hard without your love and guidance which brings me to the fact that you are smarter than you think.  You are brilliant Mummy – although you have the worst sense of direction.  You were forever lost, turning the wrong way; never understanding east, west north and south.  You always wanted us to tell you right and left, and then you’d just turn in whatever direction you felt like going, which was always the wrong one.  You were gifted in every other way though.

You weren’t just quick-witted; you were smart in a way that many of us just are not.  You read people and situations.  You predicted outcomes.  You were world-wise, but not world-weary. You were an artist – yes I admit it.  Your pottery wasn’t flawed, maybe just a little tilted in some cases, but it really is art.  You made jewelry, needlepointed and were an amazing cook.  You weren’t just a giver of advice (whether I wanted it or not), you were my financial advisor, my doctor, my home economics teacher, my lawyer and my everything.  We all don’t know what we are going to do without your wisdom.  I’m guessing that we’ll pick up the phone to ask you a question and realize that thanks to you, we may already know the answer after our heart breaks a little knowing that you won’t be at the other end of the call.

Mummy – you will be missed by all of us more than you will ever know.  I hope that you knew how much you are loved, admired and respected.  You are without a doubt, the person that I look up to the most in the world.  We were all so lucky to have you in our lives.  Your doctors once said to you that the goal for you was to live the best life that you can, for as long as you can, and that you did.  I’d like to say that cancer didn’t beat you – you beat cancer.  Cancer never robbed you of who you are as a person.  You were always, thankfully still your brave, strong, smart self.  You were the brat that made us all laugh and the loving person that is making all of your friends and family cry right now.

To close, a quote by AA Milne that perfectly sums up how I’m feeling today – “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  How lucky indeed, Mummy.  I love you, good-bye for now.

XOXO


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The Bravery Bell

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“Promise me you’ll remember, you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin.

In many hospitals that have chemotherapy wards, you’ll find a Bravery Bell.  The idea is that any cancer patient that finishes their last chemo session gets to ring it, much like the bells that end a round of boxing.  I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to hear the bell ring, and each time, it brings a smile to my face and wish that I could join the systemic care team in applauding the latest patient that completed their treatment.  The last time that I heard it ring though, it also made me think about so many things.

Many patients with cancer face a different type of battle – their chemo never ends.  Are they any less brave than the ones who get to complete their treatment?  Shouldn’t they get to ring the bell too?  Others are treated with radiation – when their treatments end, they don’t have a bell to ring.  How about the family members that accompany the patients to their treatments, trying not to show any outward signs of fear, even though inside they are terrified of what their loved one will go through.  Trying every day to lift their spirits, trying to feel hope even when there may not be any.  Aren’t they brave too?

How about the wonderful nurses that provide such diligent care to each and every patient in the Chemotherapy Centres.  The nurses that quietly make sure that each and every patient is comfortable and warm and that their families are clear on what will happen.  The nurses who care about patients when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable.  If I could, I’d ring the Bravery Bell for them.  How about the doctors, no matter what the discipline, that contact patients and family members to reassure them and answer each and every one of their questions.  They too should get to ring that bell.

Cancer is the great equalizer.  Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, male, female or transgender, it doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it.  It is unique in that the cure or the life prolonger often makes you sicker than the disease.  It makes patients, families, health care providers and care givers braver than they ever thought possible.

To learn more about the Bravery Bell and the nurse who brought it to Princess Margaret Hospital, click here https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/19/for-donna-the-bravery-bell-tolls.html


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Happy Birthday to You…

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(Photo courtesy of Michele’s birthday in 2015)

…Mummy!  I know that it may be awhile before you read this, but the sentiment will keep.  If I ever had any doubt about the type of person that you are (which I never have), the outpouring of love and affection from your family, friends, doctors (who else can charm the uncharmable into loading them up with pastries) and even the people who work in your building are a lesson to me on how to live a good life.  Whenever people talk about you to me, it’s always about how wonderful you are, what an inspiration you are, how sweet, and how you never complain.  It’s all true (except you, sweet?  Please.).

I’ve seen first hand your triumphs and your challenges.  Your triumphs are usually winning a bet with me like our Super Bowl bet.  In my defence, I know nothing about football, but at least I never welch when it’s time to pay up like some people that I know.   Nothing makes you happier than beating me – luckily for me, I don’t lose often.  Although you may lose the odd bet, you are one of the sharpest people that I know.  You are also quite a little socialite.  Your phone never stops ringing – another testament to how much you are loved by your family and friends.

I admire you for so many reasons, too numerous to count really, but watching you face adversity this last while has really shown me what you are made of.  You never quit, you never give up, and I’ve never been prouder of you.  Whenever I was sick as a child, you would come into my room as I lay in bed, checking on me, taking my temperature, or just trying to comfort me.  You looked down at me, and I looked up at you, reassured that I would feel better soon because you were there to take care of me.  I know that it’s frustrating to now be in a position where the roles are reversed, but I still look up to you.  That won’t change.

You are still the strongest, smartest, funniest woman that I know.  You have a curiosity and interest in so many different things.  You have the best sense of humour.  I’m glad that we still have moments where we can laugh.  I’m grateful to be your daughter, and I’m so grateful to get to celebrate another birthday with you.

 


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Happy Birthday AK

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If any of you are regular readers of my blog, then you know that I have “Frousins” who are my cousins but also among my closest of friends.  The term Frousin was coined by the brilliant and handsome AK.  It perfectly describes our relationship – we are related, there is no doubt about that if you saw our mothers when they are afraid of being late, but we also laugh together, travel together and just enjoy hanging out, much like a good friend.  I’ve stopped doing birthday blogs, mostly because, I felt like as nice as they were, if you didn’t know the people, it was a great big in-joke that you, my readers couldn’t be part of. I decided to make an exception for AK since it’s a special birthday and he is so special to me.  In honour of your big celebration and inspired by this photo, here are 40 things that I love about AK:

  1. You have a lovely sister (GK) who we are so happy to have in Toronto.  If you are our brother from another mother, she is our sister from another mister
  2. Your parents are fabulous!  And I love how they spoil you
  3. You introduced us to AB who not only has great taste in balloons, but is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met
  4. You are named after my wonderful grandfather – that makes you the “King” in our family
  5. OK-OK, I know – it’s all about you!
  6. When I saw how your students reacted to you, and how much they loved you, it warmed my little heart.  You care about people and it’s such a rarity these days
  7. You also know how to say it like it is, and that always cracks me up
  8. Speaking of cracking up – the expression that you get when you are surprised by something always makes me laugh
  9. You play along with my annoying rating games and “would you rather” scenarios
  10. You know a good bottle of wine when you see it – hooray Oyster Bay
  11. You know how to shop and are a deal finder
  12. You are a snazzy dresser who know how to mix high and low
  13. You won best dressed teacher – and campaigned for it
  14. You take care of yourself (pedicures anyone?)
  15. You are smart!  Who else would know what and where Azerbaijan is!
  16. You do the same laugh until you cry thing that I do so I feel less alone in the world
  17. You are a bit klutzy which also helps me feel less alone in the world – because I’m a lot klutzy
  18. You are patient.  Who else could teach me to shoot a bow and arrow?
  19. You are logical – your best tip for teaching me how to shoot the bow and arrow?  “Um…you have to actually aim it at the target”.  I got so much better after that!
  20. You understand that camping now if staying at the Holiday Inn
  21. You love your sister’s bird and animals in general.  You’ve even started taking care of him!
  22. You discover new places and share them
  23. You are a great travel mate!
  24. Even more important, you like to travel – that can sometimes be two different things.  If you like to travel, it means that you have a curiosity about the world
  25. You were brave enough to move to a foreign country for school
  26. You own up to getting hangry
  27. It’s always so funny to see how calm Starbucks makes you
  28. You always try to do the right thing
  29. You like to do cheesy things and make them fun
  30. You also like to do very civilized things like go to a VIP Cinema
  31. You understand how fabulous the “Golden Girls” are
  32. You like a good concert – in fact, you have great taste in music
  33. You have no issue taking one for the team
  34. You like being treated in a first class manner but you do not have a first class attitude
  35. You get through what life throws at you with a sense of humour
  36. You don’t expect anything – in fact, you should ask for help more
  37. You know how to brighten someone’s day
  38. You let people have their moments and enjoy it when they do
  39. You are generous to a fault
  40. When people are going through a difficult time, you are there.  2015 wasn’t kind to my family.  You didn’t ask what you could do – you just showed up and I’ll never forget that!

Have a wonderful birthday and a happy, healthy year.  I can’t wait to celebrate with you!