The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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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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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


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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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No Approval Required

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Some years ago, I’m not going to say how many to protect the innocent and not so innocent, I started my career in media.  Citytv was unique – everyone thought it was the number one station in Toronto – it was legendary.  It was the little station that could, and the coolest one around.  We were number 3, but if you are going to be number 3, be the best number 3 you can be.  I was beyond excited and on my first day, my then boss gave me a whispered warning – don’t ruin my relationship with the Cityline producer, and whatever you do, don’t get on her bad side.  Quivering on the inside, I was taken around to be introduced to a bunch of people whose names escaped me for awhile, then I was introduced to Chrissie Rejman.

Diminutive, with a British accent, and a slightly bored expression, at least when speaking with this newbie, she said hello, as she looked me up and down, then said her still famous line, “Well, of course you’ve seen Cityline.”  Of course, I responded, a little to eagerly, and went on to say how much I loved Fashion Friday and Mega Makeover Madness!  I was rewarded with a small nod.  Back in those days when streaming services didn’t exist and VHS meant something other than VERY HOMELY SUCKER, we taped our favourite shows and this show was one that made the cut.  If you aren’t familiar with Cityline, it is an interactive lifestyle show with themed days and as it’s producer always said, it’s advice your best girlfriend would give you.  Chrissie was the producer from it’s inception in 1984 until June 30th, 2016.

After many months, and a HUGE project, Chrissie started taking a liking to me, I think she realized that I cared about her show and was willing to work hard.  She even gave me an end credit a few times, I never told her how thrilled I was by that.  Many of you fast forward the credits, but knowing the work that goes into production, I always try to read them.  As time went on, my admiration for Chrissie grew and I started to not only see her as a producer that I had to be able to work with, but a dear friend and mentor.  We started having after work chats at least once a week.  These calls started as I often needed to get approvals for story ideas for clients, but then became our time to vent, and laugh and sometimes even cry.

To know Chrissie is to understand that there was a going to be a certain rhythm to the approval process.  First came the no, with a mild insult.  Often it was “vile”, “ridiculous”, a disgusted sigh or even “Jill, how can you ask me to do this?”.   I’d say “OK Chrissie, I get it”, we’d have a little laugh, then say goodbye.  Then, I’d count down 5, 4, 3, 2…ring (I’d smile to myself as I picked up the phone)!  “Jill, I can’t do that dreadful integration, but here is what I can do…” – 90% of the time, it was always more than I’d ever ask for, and a better idea.

Outside of coming up with good sales integrations, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from my friend:

  • Remain ageless – it really is just a number
  • Stay passionate about what you love
  • Care about everything that has your name on it
  • There are a million ideas out there, you just have to look for them
  • If someone is applying for a job with you and they tell you that they are a people person, say “Really, I don’t” to see how they react.  I haven’t tried this one, but it’s a brilliant line
  • Keep your friends close and don’t worry about your enemies
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if it’s a fight you aren’t going to win
  • Pick someone that you are inspired by to be your mentor – I did, and she never let me down.  I didn’t realize how much of a mentor Chrissie was to me until I found out she was leaving, then I thought back to all of the life lessons that I acquired over time just by listening to her, and realized how inspired I am by this woman
  • The older you get, the bigger the bigger the jewelry you should wear.  If you want to try wearing big jewelry, own it.  Chrissie is 5 feet (ok a little less than that) and tiny, and she pulls it off

Chrissie – I’ll never quite get the right words to tell you how much you mean to me.  You have been my comfort and my constant at work.  You’ve made me laugh harder and cry harder than I ever thought possible.  You are going to do great things – I don’t doubt that.  You are vital, strong and brilliant.  I love being your friend and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

 


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I Get So Emotional…

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…well not really, all the time, but I thought it was the perfect Whitney Houston song to use as the title for today’s blog.  2015 is not a year that I am going to have many fond thoughts of, in fact, in the words of my home girl Queen Elizabeth  (Her Majesty to you), this is fast becoming a year I shall not look fondly upon.  It has turned out to be an annus horribilis.  For those of you who think that I’m referring to someone more cheeky, annus means year in Latin.  

A lot has happened over a very short period of time, and I’ve seen the best and worst of people.  The one thing that I have discovered in all of this, is how important it has been to use my emotions productively.  This is something that Deepak Chopra talks about in his latest 21 Day Meditation Experience and you know I like to remind you that Dr. Oz highly recommends meditation to alleviate stress among other health benefits.  I still suck at it, but why quit trying?

In my favourite meditation to date, Deeps talks about what you should do in a time of difficulty.  I love that he says that being emotionally productive isn’t about “positive thinking as a solution or constantly trying to maintain an optimistic disposition.”  Rather, he wants us to make our emotions part of our support group.  How can we do this?

  • Be aware that emotions are tied to every choice that you make and you can’t always be rational.  I like being rational, but yes, I would say that in the scheme of things, emotions rule the day
  • Deal with emotions as a contestant companion and advisors.  In other words, don’t try to suppress how you feel – many decisions, good and bad, are made based on feelings and it doesn’t help to try to bury your emotions.  The one thing I have to say is that good or bad, I get everything out.  If I need to cry, which isn’t often, I do it.  If I’m angry, depending on how much something is bothering me, I tell the person.  If I’m happy or grateful, I say so.  Life is far too short to choke down feelings and I’ve noticed, at least for me, that there is something very therapeutic about getting things out into the open…and a good cry never hurts.  Deepak says that it is important to remember that every situation has an emotional component
  • “Pushing down emotions” or try to stifle emotions, they get “stuck” meaning, they just sit in your subconscious like a ginormous unhealthy dinner gets stuck in your tummy

There were a few other deep thoughts, but this was the gist of it.  I loved that he didn’t stress positive thinking or fake optimism as a solution.  I hate when people tell me to look at the bright side or that things happen for a reason.  I think I’ve written about this before, but I think that sometimes bad things happen to the best people and sometimes, you see karma in action.  I’m seeing both of these situations at once – but coping with each is less difficult, because I know exactly how I feel and today, that is what I most grateful for.


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Happy Birthday AK (AKA Frousin)

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Who doesn’t love AK?

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The Glacier we hiked to in Norway!

You may remember some references to AK/Frousin throughout my blog.  He is my brother from another very nice mother (and father).  AK – two of my very favourite words in the English language are “YOU’RE RIGHT” (does a contraction count as more than two words?).  In honour of your very special birthday, I thought I’d share a few things that you were right about: 1. As you breathe you need – or should I credit this to Auntie Tessie? 2. Killing people’s dreams can be very funny – in fact, they are some of my favourite stories of yours. 3. Sea days are the best days…ever 4. Pizza Libretto isn’t bad, but it isn’t the best in Toronto 5. Sting is amazing in concert 6. Concerts are amazing in general 7. You should be able to sit in the Maple Leaf Lounge if you buy a Rouge plane ticket – maybe I shouldn’t bring up painful memories 8. Some people can be very annoying (especially at tea time) 9. Starbucks can be a beacon of hope when you are lost and afraid in a foreign country 10. Having a pedicure is a G-d given right! 11. So is wearing cashmere – scratch that – you can’t wear it and that is one of life’s little tragedies 12. You should always, always take your glasses off before getting your picture taken 13. Marrying your cousins should be illegal even if others think “It’s allowed” 14. You should always have another cookie 15. Angela Lansbury is a living legend Today, if you haven’t guessed, I am so grateful to my frousin, the birthday boy.  It’s so great having you as not just a likeable family member, but a true friend as well.  You are the best of both worlds and I am so happy to have you as one of my closest friends.