Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gay Piece

This just in! Mideast Piece, a new blog/website guide to gay relations in Israel-the Mid-East. A travelogue, guide to Israel's gay locales, hot spots and The Scene , Mideast Piece is full of tongue-in-cheek entries on why gay men in the Mid East - Arab and Jew - should get along.

Founded by John & Matt (way to go, John), if nothing else, visit for the pictures. There are lots of them and the samples are yummy. But bear in mind a smattering of adult content.

A Mideast Piece Road Map for Peace
Mideast Piece aims to unite people around the world through shared adoration of that most sacred and bronzed of species, the Middle Eastern man. Whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Druze, these desert men are more valuable than any Saudi oil well.

As greater appreciation for the Middle Eastern male develops, we are confident the international community will intervene to preserve and protect this endangered species from destroying itself (and, on occasion, others). There are too many unattractive, pale people on Earth for the world not to make the entire Middle East a natural reserve of hot men, complete with admission fee, monorail, and – of course – petting zoos.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Random Sunday

Did Someone Say Rave?

Tel Aviv: Riding w/Contra Bass

Wait. Your tattoo is a different color. I want mine to look just like yours.

Mom, I can't. Your skin is darker so it won't come out the same. And your skin is too hard for me to draw on. It's because you're getting old...five-year-old Raphael

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gender Preference

Every Friday at my son's Tel Aviv kindergarten, the kids participate in a traditional Sabbath welcoming ceremony. Two kids delegated "Abba (father) Shabbat (Sabbath)" and "Eema (mother) Shabbat (Sabbath)" light candles, say a blessing over the wine (grape juice), eat challah and lead the class in singing songs.

My son was Abba Shabbat yesterday. En route to school he asked:

Mom, how come there aren't two Abba Shabbat's?

Uh..well..I stammered..Because Israel hasn't gotten that far in terms of sexuality and traditional roles? Because this isn't San Francisco? Because...???

I then proceeded to explain that although he isn't seeing two Abba Shabbats at school, it's an okay part of everyday life. And illustrated via example - our gay friend Dean.**

He is Abba Shabbat with another Abba Shabbat?

Yes, dear. He doesn't have an Eema Shabbat. (Unless they're role playing and feeling frisky and ...well I don't need to go there with a five-year-old)

And the ensuing conversation was about girls, boys, boys who like boys, girls who like girls, (Blur, anyone?) kissing, being chased by girls who kiss...*sigh*. And so it begins.

**Fictitious name

Friday, January 26, 2007

Flying Solo

I'm a single mom. I've mentioned it here on occasion but haven't really gone into detail because...well some things just feel like they should be kept private. Or at least for the time being. That's not to say I haven't wanted to share insights, particularly with women or other parents considering stepping over into single caretaker mode.

For now, though, I'm pleading the 5th. To clarify: I love my lifestyle and the choice I made despite its challenges. Apropo challenge, I'm paraphrasing the following portion of an e-mail message received from a family friend - a single mom raising two kids. It resonated deeply.

I still don't have cable tv. I had to put our house up for sale and the only reason we had Christmas in 2005 was because a nice lady at work bought my boys toys. She was our angel that year.

I had to ask my dad for money, once again, so that I could keep my house by paying off the loan for my 1997 Dodge with over 150,000 miles on it. It's the same car I still drive.

My credit is shot and I've had my electricity shut off. Our air conditioner quit last summer and we sweat it out; It's still not fixed. My parents bought the boys shoes, coats and many dinners. I picked up a second job.

You have no idea what it's like to be a single mother with two kids and two jobs.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Kodak Moment"

My friend Jo in San Fran sent through a picture of her new dog Poco. I gazed and melancholy began brewing instantly. I then promptly ordered myself to halt.

Because the longings for "another place" can stream on ad nauseam.

Instead I decided to tweak it all and view things from a different angle:

I Am Fortunate and Privileged; Here are some of the Beautiful Places in which I Have Lived:

Cincinnati, Ohio San Francisco, California The Negev Desert, Israel

Monday, January 22, 2007

As the World Spins

My parents live in Cincinnati. It's where I grew up but I haven't lived there since my early 20's. So I've missed the sprawl, strip mall build-up and incremental change aside from what I see on visits.

My parents aren't religious but they keep a Kosher home. The other day, I got a card from my mother.

The Kosher butcher is going to close soon. Not enough business. Also Bilker's (a kosher mini-market) is closing. The owners are in their 80's and can't sell so they're shutting down. They've been in business at least 50 years.

It's a bit sad and scary to see the changes. We'll have to make periodic visits to the butcher in Columbus, I guess. I never thought I would see this.

There were four Kosher butchers here when we moved to Cincinnati and the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Roselawn was only 3 years old at the time. Roselawn was "The Place to Be". Now, there's a killing in Roselawn nearly every week and the business district looks like a ghost town.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Git in there and give 'em a fight for their money!

This should prove verrrrry interesting.

And now for an entirely different matter...

Can someone PLEASE explain to me how an editor feels okay e-mailing: Sorry but I was wrong; Accounting didn't issue checks this month. I don't know when they will.

Like, uh...What?

Oh that's cool. Yeah I know I did the research and made deadline and came back with the edits you needed. And I know you guaranteed payment by a certain date. But "payment optional" is groovy...I don't mind. My son doesn't need SHOES OR A WINTER COAT OR AN EDUCATION!

Better yet. How's about finding your article printed - with your byline - on a commercial site you never authorized. Like, they totally ripped it off without permission.

*sight* It's the weekend. I'll try and relax.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Very Big "H"

For a story I've been working on, I interviewed children of Holocaust survivors.

Now to preface this entry, let's put the "children" into context. Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. That was 62 years ago. So if a person was, say, twenty at the time he/she is now past 80.

So any child of a Holocaust survivor is no longer a child either.

After working on this story, I'm asking myself why it never occured to me that children growing up in households of camp survivors would be adversely (extremely) affected regardless of whether the parent was silent or spoke of the trauma. I am personalizing because relatives - with whom I shared childhood - never (that I knew of) talked of or displayed effects of unusual goings-on in their house.

But as one woman I met - whose mother began telling her about the camps and ghettos when she was FOUR YEARS OLD - shared:

These were people who were traumatized, torn down and treated like animals. De-humanized. Then they had children without working through what they had been through. But how could they have? There was no therapy in those days and even if there was, nobody would've been trained to deal with the scope of their trauma. Of course we were affected. How could we not have been?

The same woman, later on:

When I was a teenager, up in my friend's attic we came across old pictures of her parents. One was of her father's bar-mitzvah. It was a formal, black tie affair. All of a sudden I started doing the math and realized that while her parents were eating cake and dancing to Benny Goodman, mine were starving with their heads shaved.

Something to think about. Holocaust Remembrance Day is next Saturday the 27th.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


A few months ago I was searching frantically for an apartment in the Tel Aviv housing market from hell. I ranted and raved and was fear-ridden but ultimately found a place in a wonderful neighborhood on a wonderful street in a building filled with wonderful neighbors who say hello, ask if I need anything and don't summon the (embarrassed) police because my 4-year-old's birthday party is "too noisy". (I jest not)

Today I was reminded of the rental market's sickening edge by my friend Jellyfish.

Jelly IM'd: I have to get out of my apartment. The landlady wants to raise the rent.

By how much? I mean unless it's drastic, take into account that rents have increased across the board and the value of the dollar has dropped so it might be wiser to stay put.

Right. If it's drastic. Okay.

So how much does she want?

She's going from $750 to $1500.


No. I don't.

That, dear readers, is the most outrageous landlord audacity I've heard to date. Top that, if you can!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Really Real

These truths I know...

1) If you decide to use the WC while talking on the telephone, the other person will hear what you're up to

2) A kid can smell and decipher what you've eaten regardless of attempts at concealment.

"Mommy you ate chocolate! I want some!"

"Did you eat Trix cereal?"

No. I had a banana.

"No you didn't. You had Trix. I can tell. I want Trix too"

Monday, January 15, 2007

Getting On

Next month it'll be half a year since my dog Atticus was put to sleep after suffering through a bone infection (osteomyelitis) for most of 2005. We were together for 13 years.

During that decade plus 3, as "dog people" know, the gnawing knowledge that you will outlive your pet - barring unforeseen accidents - is constantly riding sidesaddle. There's dread and a feeling that you won't be able to cope when the time comes. There's fear that the pain will be unbearable.

Six months later I have coped and handled and I'm getting on.

I love seeing other dogs at the park and stroking their fur. And I particularly love seeing Goldens. But as a friend who lost her pet at the same time shared: "If I could just hug him one last time". That and wrap my arms around Atticus and inhale deeply. But one last time would never suffice.

There's a gap. And all of a sudden I miss her desperately at times and begin to cry. And my 5-year-old will ask: "What is it, mom? Atticus?" Yeah. I'll reply through tears. "Don't worry. We'll get another dog. And we can name the new dog Atticus," he'll reassure. Aren't I lucky to have such a wonderful kid (playing an adult)?

I dunno why I decided to share that. I guess to de-mystify the feelings or explain how they morph from sharp and all-encompassing pain to deeper longing. And during my initial loss, judging from the deep feelings resurrected within my mother for her dog Sharon who died years ago, the feelings never completely subside.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kiddie Foto Fest

Give a kid a camera and...5-year-old Rapha's first assignment.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hail Mary

You know that I went to a Catholic School, right?

Wait...Are you Jewish?

Yeah. I don't look it, I know. I was adopted. But I had to go to Catholic school for discipline. I was a PROBLEM CHILD. We had to wear uniforms and everything.

Whoa. How was that? Did it work?

I dunno. I used to sit there during mass and look around at the ornateness of the church - the colors and the stained glass and the flowing robes and the altar boys - and think: "My God, this was designed by a gay person. The church is gay."

In general it was okay but Andrew Schwartz - he was the only other Jew at school - and I got into serious trouble when we decided not to stand up for mass one day. It wasn't because of the Jewish thing. We were too stoned to stand up.

We got sent to the head priest's office and my mom was called in. Big scene. The priest said that regardless of our religion, while in Catholic school we would stand during mass.

The next time after that, we stood. AND we even took communion. But it wasn't because we were being obedient. We were stoned again and we had the munchies.

True confessions of a Tel Aviv yoga teacher

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Extreme Confession

You know those video clips that make the e-mail rounds showing everyday people - usually youngish boys/teens/men - trying out acts of absurdity a la Jackass? For the not-in-the-know, that's the MTV show centered around a few foolhardy young men who attempted an assortment of absurdities simply...because. Like crashing a bicycle into a cactus patch to see what happens. Or swallowing a goldfish live and immediately inducing vomiting to watch the fish come up again alive.

You are getting the picture.

Well I have a confession.

When people send those clips around I don't forward them. Unless they're super funny and not too violent. Which is rarely.

Because despite risking showing aging signs, I don't think it's funny to watch a boy jump in front of a moving train and jump out of the way at the last minute. I also don't think it's funny to see someone on a bicycle slam full speed into the back of a truck because he wasn't watching where he was going. And the daredevils who attempt and fail at jumps off rooftops, down stairwells or over cars...well yes we all know the intelligence quotient probably wasn't outrageous in those cases but regardless I'm still not laughing at an idiot's folly.

Au contraire. I cry when I see those clips. They upset me that much. Because I don't understand the people hurting themselves and I don't understand the people behind the cameras who continue filming someone writhing in pain. It's all beyond me.

This was my share of the day because I got a bunch of those type clips yesterday. I cried. And deleted.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Aliens Are Coming!

Last week my five-year-old asked: Mom, are there aliens?

I was taken aback. Where was that coming from? It certainly isn't conversation fodder at our Tel Aviv breakfast table.

Well, sweetheart, I'm not sure, I answered. There are people who are trying to find out but nobody knows for certain.

For verification's sake, I guess I could have then gone to the computer and shot off an e-mail to my old friend Sam** who is with intelligence at NASA. And messaged: Hey Sam, tell me, how's the alien research coming these days?

And she would've shot back:

Well, I shouldn't be letting you know this and I am on company e-mail but ... You're way far away in...where was it again? Oh yeah, Holy Land Central. Whatever. Yeah, we've known about the aliens for decades. We play Dungeons and Dragons with them every Tuesday night at the Red Planet Docking Station. Sore losers, I'll tell you that. But do me a favor. DON'T TELL ANYONE.

Yessirree Bob.

And then I got to thinking about the larger picture and about my son's video viewing habits of late and it all made sense. Of the last 4 movies we've seen, three have been beyond gravity zone themed: Chicken Little whose aliens drop through the fallen sky, Tom & Jerry who meet aliens while on a trip to Mars and Jimmy Neutron who saves the abducted-by-aliens neighborhood parents. Is it any wonder his brain is ticking?

Then I really got the urge to message my friend Sam**: Who's tipping off Hollywood? C'mon. You can tell me. It's your old pal Stef. But I refrained.

Instead I thought about someone I met last year, a very new friend, who let slip within a few meetings: And the afternoon my husband was abducted by aliens...

It was a "there goes the neighborhood" moment of sheer disappointment: Aw no. She DID NOT just say what I think she said. Yes she did. And things were going so well. Oh man.

I dunno. Maybe there is something to it all and I'm the odd man out....
** friend's name isn't really "Sam"...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Am Soooooooo......

Lame! for not blogging lately.

But that means I'm soooooooo busy, right?

Uh, or that it's raining a lot thereby dampening my motivation, yeah?

Or that I'm lazy, huh?


HAPPY NEW YEAR ANYWAY! (i only had to move my fingers 18 times to write that)

love....stefanella stef