Monday, April 2, 2012

Zalmy Berkowitz: Bearded Brilliance

I have been a parent for 20 years; 21 if you count the time during my first pregnancy.

During my oldest kid's early years, I took loads of pictures with a disposable camera.  They were as awesome as you are imagining them to be.

My second kid's childhood was documented almost solely via a giant camcorder that I inherited along with my husband.

The third kid...well, there are a few photos I have that I could put into an album.

The fourth, fifth and the early years of the sixth have all their memories held hostage on my computer's hard drive (if that is where photos are stored on a computer).

But to be honest, there isn't an abundance of photographic evidence of any of my kids after the year 2010.

And we've never, ever, had our pictures taken by a trained, honest-to-God professional.  Heck, even my wedding was photographed by the husband of a friend, and he wasn't good.  He was really nice.  But he wasn't good.

But last month, something amazing happened.  I mean, it's really amazing.  Just when you think you know all the amazing things about it, another amazing thing pops up and then you're mind is blown.

I have a friend - a best friend - named Melanie and she and her husband are photographers.  But for real, they are. They own  Fresh Photography out of North Carolina, and they take the kind of pictures that regularly make me tear up.  I've known Melanie since my almost 12-year-old wasn't even a 1-year-old.  I've known Melanie since the time she used to describe herself as a "wacky mom".  Seeing her now is - I'll just say it - it's inspiring.  She's amazing and accomplished and a great wife, mom and a great friend as well.

Anyway, Melanie has a photographer friend (probably more than one) and she mentioned he'd be coming through my area in March and said I should see how much he would charge to do a shoot here in Santa Rosa, where I live.  I checked it out, and while I knew it was a very fair price and I knew the photographs would be priceless and timeless memories, I also knew that I would not be able to scrape together the money for them.  Boo.

Imagine my surprise - well, you can't.  You can't imagine my surprise.  I was so surprised to find an email in my inbox from Zalmy Berkowitz, offering me his services for free and asking if I was still interested.  For such a smart man, this may have been the dumbest thing ever asked.

I did two things:  Literally squealed, even though I was alone in the room.  The other thing I did was resolve to not eat until the shoot almost a week later, because wow - I've packed on the pounds.  (I ate.  When it comes to crash diets - I'm all talk.)

Oh, I did a third thing:  I began to obsess over things.  Things like my stained carpets, the fact that I have no curtains up right now, the dusty TV screen and the broken laundry basket in the hallway.  And then there was the fact that we don't have any really awesome clothes and my hair could use some color.  Possibly the biggest stress was the fact that a stranger was going to be in my house.  Taking pictures of all the things that I wish were different.  But even just the fact that there would be a stranger in my house - camera or no camera.

But it turns out I was stressing over nothing.  After a couple calls from Zalmy (my youngest called him "Zombie".  Not cool, Frank.  Not cool), I was put more at ease.  And then, within five minutes of his arrival, it was as if he'd been at my house a million times. By the end of the shoot, he felt a lot like family.  His mannerism, personality - everything about him, really, just put us all right at ease. 

He's a funny, easy-going, kind-hearted, highly-skilled and talented photographer who also happens to be a Rabbi.  Which is neither here nor there, but how cool is that?  If you were to hire him to take pictures at your wedding, then this conversation could happen:

YouI had the best photographer for my wedding.

Your friend
:  Your pictures were amazing, but so were mine.

YouYes, we both had great photos, but was your photographer also a teacher, a person sufficiently educated in halakhah (Jewish law) and tradition to instruct the community and to answer questions and resolve disputes regarding halakhah?  No?  Mine was.

And let's be honest, your pictures were way better.

Here's what I want to shout from the rooftops to anyone who would pass up an awesome documentary-style shoot because they may think they have to have a perfect house or a perfect family in order to "qualify" for this phenomenal method of photo-documentation:


We didn't buy new clothes or even have our kids dress up.  We didn't have matching outfits (don't have matching outfits).  I never did buy curtains (still haven't).  I did clean up the house a bit, because mama didn't raise no fool.  My carpets are still stained.  We aren't exciting people and there was a fear that we'd be so dry and dull that it would, in fact, be the most boring set of photos ever taken.  But it turns out Zalmy is a professional photographer who is incredibly talented and - as Melanie assured me - makes dry and dull look great.

If you live in Southern California, look him up.  Zalmy Berkowitz Photography. If you live in another part of California, still look him up.   I hear he comes through this area on his way up to Oregon several times a year and - as I've learned - makes stops along the way to take amazing pictures.  Heck, maybe he makes stops in other states as well.  Of course, if you get too far south, may as well just call Melanie and Jeff at Fresh Photography... I mean, she's already over there and it just makes sense. 

I know you're dying to see the pictures.  Or at least dying to see Zalmy's beard.  I haven't bought any of the photos yet, and I'd feel weird about stealing his stuff off his Facebook, but if you have the good sense G-d (hat tip to Jews) gave you, then you'll follow this link:

And okay, it turns out I'm not so squeaky clean.  I did use an image he took that I have not yet purchased, but I am going to purchase it, so I think that means it's okay that I used it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Dropped The Soda

I asked Frank to bring me up a can of soda. 

I can hear him saying, "Cold! Cold! Cold!" all the way from the fridge, up the stairs and to my room.

He hands me the can and starts to say something.  Now, Frank takes a while to start a sentence.  The first word usually takes about 5-10 seconds to materialize (all my boys have gone through this stage).  While he's working on it, I am opening up the tab to the soda.

I wish I had waited for him to get the sentence out, because as I finally pop the top of the can, Frank says, "I dropped the soda".

And now I'm covered in root beer.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 3rd of July

Walking down a sidewalk with my at-home kids, my husband and my mom, toting a few meager supplies from our car, down blocks of sidewalks and through a parking lot and then on to the lawn, sitting on blankets in prickly grass, waiting with little ones for the sky show to start.

Wondering why after six kids I still never remember to ask if they need to use the restroom before we leave the house, especially when our destination does not have the facilities to facilitate our urgent and inevitable needs.

Piling up on the blankets watching the fireworks and watching my kids watch the fireworks.  I don’t know which is more entertaining.  Frank’s face turns toward the lights like a satellite dish toward the signal in space.

Making the long trek back to the car with all our stuff that seems to have doubled in size and weight.  Sitting in our car along with hundreds of other lawn dwellers who had the same idea about the “short cut nobody would think to take.”

Singing in the car on the way home and then carrying the sleepy kids up to their beds when we finally arrive back home to our stuffy house.  Open the windows.

Happy 3rd of July!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Note Found On A Post-It

To:  Hannah

I love you so much that if you died I will have all of your stuff if you did not want them.

I love you


Friday, March 25, 2011

It Smells.

We sold our truck years ago.  I immediately headed to the bank to deposit the Cashiers Check and was able to go straight to the teller window because I was the only person in the bank. The new and slightly timid teller starts the transaction but informs me that she will need to put a hold on the funds unless the issuing bank can verify it's a valid check.

She does.

They can't.

The Boss Teller comes over to the Fledgling Teller and investigates. I'm sweating. Thinking about crying. And how will I explain to Troy that I just gave away our truck for free because they "seemed like nice people"?

Boss Teller informs me that if I can give her the last name of the people who issued the questionable check, she will be able to track it more easily. She assures me that it's probably just because the check was issued on that day and most likely it will show up in the other bank's system the next day.

This whole time, I smell poop. But there's a baby at the window next to me now, so I think nothing of it.

I go out to my car, call my oldest son and ask him to grab the Bill of Sale from the filing cabinet and give me the buyer's last name. I write it down, bring it back into the now PACKED bank and wait in line.

There's that poo smell again. But there's another baby in line behind me so I think nothing of it. Not really.

I finally get to the window after letting the entire line pass me so that I can get the same teller that I had before. The Timid Teller calls the issuing bank. Only, she just gives them the same information that she gave them last time. She never tells them the payor's last name. I am about to interrupt her and tell her that the whole reason I waited in line a second time was to bring her this information that she requested so could she please use it? But then my attention is drawn to the palm of my right hand.

Poo. A portion of my palm is covered in dried poo. What to do, right?  I find a receipt in my purse, lick my thumb, smear the spit on the receipt and try to wipe off the now-petrified offense. Eventually, it relents. Only now, with the friction and the added moisture, it TOTALLY smells. Like, before, maybe only I could smell it, but now it's emanating from my body like a Glade Plug-in: Death Edition.

So when she tells me that I have to come in again tomorrow to find out if the bank would have a record of the check by then, I don't complain and instead just say, "Oh! Okay, thank you! Bye!"  Because when you're at the bank with your baby's dried poop on the palm of your hand? You really need to just go home.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Soul Print - Discovering Your Divine Destiny

In Mark Batterson's latest book, Soul Print, he sets out to remind us that God has made each of us unique and that our uniqueness is a testament to God, our Creator.  However, "Few people discover the God-given identity that makes them unlike anyone else."

Seems fine, at first.  Not ground-breaking, but fine.

It didn't take me too many pages to start talking back to the book.  "No, that isn't right."  "Does he mean to say...?"  "Did I accidentally pick up a pop psychology book?"

I hadn't even made it to Scene 1 in the book before I read things like, "God isn't going to ask, 'Why weren't you more like Billy Graham [...]?  God is going to ask, 'Why weren't you more like you?'"

I don't know about that.

The book asserts that we need to find out who we are so that we can know who God is.  It sounds fine, I suppose.  But it doesn't have that satisfying ring of truth.  1 Corinthians 2:2 has Paul saying, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."  That's it.  We never see Paul or Jesus or Moses or Noah looking back into their past memories so that they could find their soul print. They kept their eyes on the Lord. 

When we walk closely with God, we become who He made us to be. 

I did find the book easy-to-read and the author's writing style is engaging.  Even when he delves into the question of whether Saul was dealing with a #1 or #2 (yeah, you read that right) when he was in the cave "relieving himself".  I have to admit, I've never heard anyone get quite as deep into that passage.

I won't recommend this book to anyone. If someone asks me about it, I'll probably tell them that it isn't heresy, but it isn't going to help your walk with the Lord, either.

This review brought to you by me, the letter C and from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, who gave me the book for free in exchange for my book review.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Gold Bond Is Cool

A short while after applying Gold Bond medicated itching cream (with menthol) to a bug bite on my arm, I became suddenly aware that I must not have gotten all the lotion off of my hands after application.  And as the menthol-induced coolness at the new and shocking location intensified, so did my wish that it was customary to wash ones hands before using the restroom.