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Archive for September, 2011

Mazda Gallery

posted by Sheva 12:29 PM
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remember those fake diamonds from Mazza Gallery in DC? Well I can’t mention Mazza Gallery without mentioning its sister mall, “Mazda Gallery” – that’s the one in the same location and with the same stores as Mazza Gallery, only it’s pronounced by my stepmother.

Who also wears “Ferrengamo” shoes and likes to buy sweaters from “Bennelton.”

I find it amusing when super smart people re-name people and places.

This other really powerful business man I know does it all the time – his client might be “Choice Prime Real Estate” so he’ll call them “Choices.” Or, instead of “Hilton & Hyland” it will be “Hiltons and Hylands.”

One of his VIP contacts is named “Sara Patulo” but to him, she’s “Sara Pataldo.”

It’s not a conscious decision, to change the names of these people, brands, and places. But still, it makes me wonder whether it isn’t another power play. Kind of a, “I’m more powerful than you so I can name you whatever I want,” kind of a deal.

A God complex.

Perhaps the re-naming of people, brands and places not begotten of our own bodies is just an extension of the desire to control the names of others. As parents, we name our children whatever we want, and in modern society, it’s become kind of a race, to come up with the weirdest, coolest, hippest, most ‘Vintage-est’ name of all for each new child. Gone are the days of another ‘John’ ‘Steven’ or ‘Julie.’  Instead we have “Tuscon,” “Apple,” “Pearl,” and “Trig.”

Many Kabbalah Centre peeps do it somewhat differently, as many of us choose to leave our children’s Hebrew names – which some of us, including me, then use as our children’s Actual First Names – up to the head Rabbi/Director of the Kabbalah Centre to choose. Where this gets complicated is when we ask for new Hebrew names for ourselves, and then we re-name ourselves with those Hebrew names, and then expect our friends and families to make the switch, be able to PRONOUNCE the new name, and swallow the somewhat bitter pill of the name you chose for your daughter getting knocked down a peg.

Sorry, mom.

I think I’ll head over to Mazda Gallery to buy her a pair of cubic Zirconiums to make her feel better. Or a sweater from Bennelton.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

I wonder if Needless Markup is having a sale on Ferrengamos right now?

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Wanna know where I got it?

posted by Sheva 11:12 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I’m a leo. And a (Grownup) girl. In other words, it’s not my fault that I love jewelry & diamonds and bling.

It’s in my DNA!

It doesn’t have to be expensive. I love fake bling too, especially the stuff that looks real. One of my happiest moments was when my friend, the world-famous jeweler Neil Lane, asked me if my giant “diamond” studs were real.

Actually, they were Mazza Gallery Cubic Zirconiums.

But just because I know they are fakes, doesn’t mean the whole world has to know. And yet my subconscious brain – the part that says stuff without my permission – doesn’t seem to understand that concept.

I mean, why did I have to admit to Neil that they were fakes?

And while we’re at it, why is it that, whenever someone compliments me on my dress, like Rain Man, I am compelled to blurt out, “Got the dress at Ross. Got the dress at Ross. Twenty-five dollars. Dress at Ross. Shoes, too. Twenty-five dollars. Shoes at Ross.”

Why can’t I keep myself cloaked in mystery? I admire those women who sashay through the room draped in High Fashion and unattainable-looking styles. Maybe the whole ensemble came from TJ Maxx, but they’ll never tell. (Unless you’re that fashion blogger who does the TJ Maxx TV ads. Sellout.)

Same thing goes for expensive items that I have… that were gifts.

Wow, incredible necklace!” someone inevitably remarks every time I wear this beautiful 3 ring diamond pendant I have.

Like clockwork, I immediately tell the admirer it was a gift from my mom, and lest they think my mother goes around spoiling me with diamond baubles (I WISH!), I add that it was a gift for me when I had my first child, and the three rings signify me, my husband and our newborn son.

Pre-burglary, I used to wear a giant 2-carat diamond engagement ring. Which, if you were a passer-by, you would assume my husband bought for me (by selling his body on the street? I mean, come on, he does well as a general contractor, but we like to eat, too…)  But all you’d have to do is compliment me on the ring, and you’d know soon enough that it was an heirloom – my mother’s grandmother’s engagement ring.

I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. And my jewelry in a safe when I’m not wearing it.

Here’s to living & learning! (& to wearing lots of sparkly things while I’m doing both…)


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Love my new fur vest? It was a steal! Literally. From my little sister. Shoot, I blabbed again!

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Wishing on a Star

posted by Sheva 12:40 PM
Monday, September 26, 2011

You know that rap song –?

I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a ball-er, I wish I had a girl who looked good I would call her…

Well, I’ve written my own version & it goes like this:

I wish I really liked to wash dishes, I wish I fed fishes, I wish I liked to prep and cook food that’s delicious..

I am So. Not. A homemaker.

This would not be a problem if I didn’t have THREE KIDS AND A HUSBAND!

For a few years, I bought my way out of this dilemma with a full-time nanny who cleaned the house top to bottom every day, bathed & fed the kids every day, and who made me food when I asked her to. That, combined with the habit of eating out (lunches, take-out for dinner) many times a week with my husband, solved all our problems!


Then we realized we weren’t millionaires. That hurt, let me tell you.

The first couple of weeks without full time help? Never ending cleaning. NEVER. ENDING. How in the world do single mothers do it? was all I could think as I asked my husband for the zillionth time to help and he – THANK GOD! – dove right in.

On the other hand, it felt good to actually take ownership, for the first time, over my house, my children, my life.

My husband is a great cook, but he doesn’t really have the time or the inclination to plan ahead (timing, shopping, preparing) to do it more than a few times a week. He does amazing things around the house & with the kids, but – bottom line – I’m the one responsible for making sure we are all fed, clothed, bathed & living a bacteria-free environment.

And I feel, to put it mildly, ill-equipped.

We once had four fish. Not cats, not dogs – FISH! And they all died. Thanks to my “care.”


Meanwhile, Hubby has managed to keep Sparkle and Rainbow, the fish who dwell in our outside fountain, alive, along with our amazing vegetable garden, tomato plants, and everything else outside. It does get a little awkward when friends come over and compliment me on my yard & garden. My garden? I just live here!

Then there are those occasional new guests who come over to lunch on Shabbat, complimenting me profusely, thinking I have prepared the ten different dishes set out before them.

Hee hee. Not quite.


BatSheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

My hubby: He can bring home the (Kosher veggie) bacon, fry it up in a pan, and still make it to the set of the HGTV reality show Professional Grade.

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You Know You’re Stressed When…

posted by Sheva 12:36 PM
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Awww… I just found this list I banged out a few months ago, and I thought I’d better share it with all of you, since you probably have no clue when you’re stressed (vs. when you’re just happy go lucky).

You are welcome.


  • You have a flash-fantasy of leaving home and running away to Paris
  • Your back spasms to the point of 4-Advil pain and three+ day immobility
  • Your back thigh muscle Charlie-horses on you
  • You dream of writing a “You Know You’re Stressed When” list and actually sneak to the computer to write it while your husband is putting the kids to bed & you are supposed to be doing the dishes
  • You are crazy tired
  • You think of all the things you need to get done and decide the most important thing is to watch Grey’s Anatomy episodes back to back (thanks to the wonders of Hulu)
  • You eat too much chocolate
  • You eat too much cake
  • You go out and buy chocolate or cake so you can eat it
  • You get in a giant ugly fight with your husband (his fault, natch, but why does he keep blaming me?)
  • You can’t take a deep breath
  • You’ve started to gain weight again
  • The thought that ‘the worst possible outcome is death,’ actually has a reassuring and calming effect
  • You start comparing yourself to other people, your husband/relationship to their husband/relationship, and your income/financial stability to theirs
  • You inadvertently sigh with relief when you find out someone you thought had a perfect husband/relationship/job/financial life is actually experiencing chaos in that area of life
  • The piles of papers and crap on your home office are rivaling the towers of papers and crap that still need to be sorted in your office-office
  • You are exhausted so you stay up until 1am or later watching too many Law & Orders.

As it turns out, I’m presently traveling through a healthier (physically & mentally) phase of life right now – yippee! – but that doesn’t mean I can’t remember those recent stressier days.

P.S. you probably won’t hear from me again until Monday because I’m going to NYC tomorrow – without my husband & kids, WHOO-HOO! Um, I mean, uh… sniff, wipe tear, whoo hoo

P.P.S. I told my husband that I don’t drink alcohol and I’m not even eating desserts right now so the main thing I’m looking forward to, going to the Big City on my own, free, no children to stop me, is…. SLEEPING.

Hey, a Grownup Girl’s gotta do what a Grownup Girl’s gotta do! (to get herself some beauty rest)


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

I don't know about you, but to me, this photo just SCREAMS New York City.

Viva Espanya, Part Dos

posted by Sheva 12:59 AM
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh lord, fine, more about Spain… if I MUST… Sigh…

Lived with Tatiana who back then was just Tania. I was still Shana. We went to the Jesuit Saint Louis University in Madrid, and our best friend was Lamar, a black queen who regaled us with stories about his time spent in the non-Madrid version of St. Louis University, (the one in Missouri), where, in Lamar’s words, “there ain’t nobody gay except me and the priests.”

Tatiana and I learned to cook one and only one Spanish meal: boil spaghetti, dump out the water once it’s done, add tomato sauce from a can and a can of chickpeas.

Et voila.

It’s all we ever cooked, even when we entertained guests. (Yup, you guessed it, also for our secret penis-photo snapping guests too. Hmmm… maybe the photos were revenge for the meal they were forced to consume?)

In any case, the disgusting Spanish red wine was always poured nonstop (as an alternative to the vile whiskey cokas we always drank at the bars and clubs), and the cigarette smoke filled our cement apartment like a Spanish cloud.

Tania and I watch Spanish TV constantly, with the sound reasoning that it would help us learn Spanish more quickly. Our favorite was Chicas De Hoy En Dia, and I can sing you the theme song right now if you want me to. The Venezuelan import Abigail, a tele-novela, ran a close second.

We were also on TV – Spanish TV – in a couple of different capacities. One was a music video shot in a warehouse, where we had to dance for like ten hours straight, with lights flashing as they filmed all of us. The producers gave us all ecstasy and whiskey cokas to help pass the time, but it still felt like it took forever.

I also remember that one of us – Tania or I – auditioned and got a role on this one major dating game show, but we chickened out before it came time to actually shoot the episode. We did, however, get stopped on the street once & asked to take part in a televised public service announcement having to do with imploring the slutty Spanish youth to at least cover up if they were going to sleep with everyone they met.

We happily complied, and a few weeks later, we caught ourselves on Spanish TV – holding up colorful condom wrappers and saying “Pon te lo!” “Usa lo!”

Towards the end of our stay, I got so sick to my stomach that I actually took a bus to see an acupuncturist who was recommended by a soft-core porn actor we were friends with. Turned out the acupuncturist doctor was 100% blind and spoke perfect English. Of course it was the blindness I was concerned about, given that he was sticking needles all over my body, but we made it through our session without him puncturing any of my major organs.

His advice to me was not to eat any cold foods, stay away from the whiskey cokas for a week, (One week! Dios mio!) and to switch from Marlboro Reds and Winstons (my cigarettes of choice) to “blue tobacco cigarettes” which are these indescribably vile types of cigarettes (some of you bratty world travelers probably know them best as Gauloises).

I must have followed at least most of his advice because I did recover. (Notwithstanding the fact that now, according to my current holistic doctor, Dr. Ed, I now need to do major detoxing from all my prior alcohol, cigarette and drug use…)

Gentle readers, to wrap it up, here is a Grownup Girl tip: If you want to quit smoking and you love throwing up, force yourself to smoke Gauloises.

You’re welcome.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Delicious. If you're a shark and there's a person attached to one of them.

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Viva Espanya!!!

posted by Sheva 11:34 PM
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remember my Hebrenglish blog, about how my English has degenerated been simplified, thanks to the daily influence of my Israeli husband?

Turns out, I was also greatly influenced by my five months as a University student in Madrid. And no, I am not talking about how I may or may not have taken ecstasy at our Spanish Halloween party and went around telling everyone that I was a black drag queen in my past life.

Er… and no, I’m not talking about how I may or may not have drank disgusting ‘Whiskey Cokas’ every single night for those five months and smoked the most disgusting hash nastiness and also tried cocaine a few times. I mean, if I even did that at all.

Nor am I speaking of the clubs my friend Tatiana and I “promoted” (AKA got free entrance into, in return for showing up and taking a stack of club flyers, all of which we promptly took home and chucked into the trash), nor the countless disgusting men who would hit on us and buy us drinks but never made it even to first base with us.

Unless you count penis photos as “first base.”

(This being in the pre-digital photography age, those penis shots gave me and Tatiana quite a surprise once our Spain pictures came back from the local drugstore after getting developed. Especially the fact that there were at least two distinctively different penises, photographed on two completely different rolls of film.)

Is this something that all dumb guys do when the girls leave the room during a dinner party? Take secret pictures of their penises? Or is it just Spanish guys?

No, I’m not talking about any of that.

What I am talking about, of course, is language. My trip influenced my language in a way that did not have me speaking in a fake Spanish accent like one wacky high school friend of ours who we met at a big American rendez-vous and couldn’t seem to shake his Spanish accent. My speech would not be impaired until years later, when I married my Israeli husband.

What the Spanish trip did is cause me to lose my ability to spell.

I first noticed it as I took notes in one of my dreaded pre-1800 English Lit courses – 4 of which were required for my Yale English major. My handwritten notes… were phonetic. PHONETIC!

Phonetic, like the Spanish language. I would write words completely wrong and it would take me a good couple of minutes to figure out what I was supposed to have written. (AKA I wood rite werds completly rong and it wood take me a cupla minuts to figur out wat I was suposed to hav rittin.)

I was an English major. I am a writer, and an editor, and a total stickler for grammar and spelling (I think I may have been among the elite few who laughed at Carrie Bradshaw’s shining moment of triumph over Natasha, the woman who married Big, when Carrie reads Natasha’s mistaken use of ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ in a thank you note.)

My Spanish problem persists to this day… in this very blog, no less, I wrote “roles” instead of “rolls” earlier (lucky me my Word program is savvier than I – either that or it never spent much time in Madrid), and also “you no” instead of “you know.”

So… thanks a lot, Spain.

For the memories, the alcohol poisoning, the penis photos, and most of all, my inability to spell the English language.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Senator Wiener, were you in Madrid lately? Because this picture looks mighty familiar...

Pocono Highlands

posted by Sheva 11:31 AM
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shoot. Remember my last blog about distorted love songs? And remember how I ended it? With the warning, “Don’t even get me started on Somebody by Depeche Mode?”

Apparently, I got me started.

Because now… not only is the song stuck in my head (“I want somebody to love for the rest of my life, know my innermost thoughts, know my intimate details”) but I have had a complete regression – er, flashback – to my thirteenth year when I listened to that song every day, all day, for months.


Somebody, and Forever Young, by Alphaville. Top 10 angst. All day, every day.

Especially at Pocono Highlands Camp, the excellent summer camp I attended that year, whose theme song went something like “At Pocono Highlands we got our abortions…”

I am not kidding you.

We used to all sing in unison, to the tune of Children of the Lord, about the owner of the camp, Lou: “Oh, Lou, he built us, he built us a bunky-bunky made it all from lots of junky-junky, suckers of PHC!”

And we really were suckers. A camp representative had come to our house that January to sell us on the camp, armed with color pictures of kids playing tennis, sailing, motor boating, and generally having a ball. It was only once I got to the dilapidated, run-down, Meatballs-esque camp that it occurred to me all the kids in those brochures had been wearing seventies style clothing and hairdos, and no pictures had been added since (this was already 1985).

We weren’t the only suckers; PHC also managed to swindle a whole bunch of Europeans into coming to the camp, both as counselors and campers. One of my bunkmates, a French girl, turned out to be one of my dearest friends for life – Astrid, whose name is now the Hebrew Shiraz (see how we are soulmate best friends??!)…

Shiraz remembers hearing Somebody and Forever Young blasting daily and nightly from my boom box, past the other sounds of the girls blow-drying their hair and otherwise preparing themselves to go over to the boys camp and get de-virginized, or whatever they did during their nightly raids.

I wouldn’t know… I was too busy getting my heart broken by my music to participate in said raids. (Though I do recall a redhead named Eric or Scott or something like that,  being the cause of my broken heart too.)

Ah, youth.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

P.S. A REAL POST I discovered on the Pocono Highlands Camp Fan Page on Facebook:

Alex Angel Holy shit, I cannot believe this group exists. I was cleaning out my room and found a book with all of the contact information of the kids I went to camp with, and all of the horrible shit I experienced at PHC came flooding back to me.

Did anyone else go here summer ’02? I’m pretty sure that was the last year it was in operation (because drunk guys from the “nearby town” broke into the girls’ cabins and almost raped a few people).

Aw, their logo looks so innocent... sniff!

Sacred Love

posted by Sheva 11:44 AM
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What is it about men singing through a distorted amp that makes me so woozy? I’ll be sitting in the car, minding my own business, when the Foster the People song Pumped up Kicks comes on and I’m hooked. I literally will sit in my car to hear the whole thing – inane lyrics and all (“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet”), until the last note.

Same goes for Lil’ Wayne’s mumbled ballad How to Love. I’m obsessed with that song. And I’m equally interested in how odd it is to hear this compassionate love song (“You hada lots crooks tryna steal your heart, never really had luck, couldn’t never figure out how to love. How to love”) – granted, grammatically crazy and misspelled song – uttered from the gold-toothed mouth of the face & body-tatooed mess that is Lil’ Wayne.

Lil’ Wayne, however, doesn’t hold a candle to the original dreaded bad boy of distorted love songs. In 1986, singing on a telephone line calling in from prison, HR from Bad Brains recorded my all-time fave, Sacred Love. I played that song on that record over and over and over and over.

The lyrics – literally – are RIDICULOUS. A sample: “Baby, baby, baby, I don’t want you come to me as a whore. Don’t lust off my body baby. That’s a bore.” And, “Maybe, maybe, maybe, Jah will bless us to be one tomorrow. Visits from you every Tuesday. Right on time.”

I mean, for crying out loud, that last verse doesn’t even rhyme!

I didn’t care. I was a love-sick teenager.

And don’t even get me started on Somebody by Depeche Mode.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)


posted by Sheva 12:22 PM
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My husband can be so cute. The other night he urged me to start writing more blogs that reference inspiring people like Karen Berg, Yehuda Berg (2 Directors of the Kabbalah Centre), and Chapee Dopick.

Ummmm… “Deepak Chopra,” you mean?

I shouldn’t talk, though – I’ve taken to shortening my phrases, too, à la the Israelis who don’t bother with petty “to be” verbs.

So instead of the incredibly long-winded, “In five minutes I will take the kids,” I now get by on the delightfully brief, “Five minutes I take them.”

Yale, Shmale.

And the English language is not the only point of departure between the Israeli and the American. The tone of each language is also diametrically opposed.

Case in point: Once I walked into our living room and my husband was on the phone, shouting in Hebrew. He was really giving it to whoever was on the other line – I assumed it was a subcontractor who screwed him over. It got so ugly that I finally had to leave, not to allow the stress of his phone conversation to leak into me.

When he hung up the phone, I returned to the living room.

“Jeez, what was that? Who were you talking to? What happened?”

“What do you mean?” my hubby replied casually. “I was just talking with my mom about what she will send the kids in the next care package. She sends you her love, by the way.”

See what I mean?

Customer care becomes tricky when dealing with Israelis. “Tricky,” in the sense that it doesn’t exist. At least not in the way we expect it.

Israelis are practical, abrupt, and direct. We Americans like to be talked to gently, softly.

They are Spartacus. We are… Chapee Dopick.


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

Can't imagine him shouting at his mother, now can you?

Getting Drunk at Yale

posted by Sheva 10:38 PM
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thinking about that recent blog with the whole ‘crackle’ thing reminded me of about four or five thousand other funny things that happened while at Yale… while I was, you know… doing other things besides studying.

The best were the banana videos. My roommate Derek and I made a number of videos featuring a banana, including one where the banana was moving to the rhythm of the Ramones’ I wanna Be Sedated and then it winds up shooting me in the head. Someday, somehow, I hope to find those banana videos, and get them digitized just in time to bribe Derek who by that point will probably be just about poise to accept his first Academy Award for writing/directing.


But for every banana and crackle story I have for the 3.5 crazy years I was at Yale as an undergrad (not including the 6 months I lived in Spain), I also have stories from before I went to Yale. Like at one of my father’s reunions, where we gave my little two year old sister Daily beer in her bottle to “calm her.” (Social services, don’t worry – Daily turned out to be the most normal of all of us. Wait – maybe we’re on to something here!!??)

Or that time at the private Yale club Mory’s with my family and my uncle Steve and his kids (all Yale grads too), when my uncle was trying to explain to the Maitre D why it appeared that minors were drinking alcohol, and exactly at that moment I pulled up from a long brisk walk in the frozen air outside trying to sober up my three-sheets-to-the-wind ten year old brother (I was a very mature thirteen year old – but never could hold my liquor), and I dropped my glass exactly at that moment on the Maitre D’s shoes. After which my brother promptly threw up.

Good times.

I think it pretty much followed that with as much studying and writing and test-passing that I did while at Yale (I did graduate Magna Cum Laude, after all), I would have to balance it all with as much drinking, wildness and less-than-ladylike behavior. Like, when I had drank/smoked so much at one friend’s party that I actually fell asleep in the hallway standing up.

Oh, there were plenty more hilarious and hair-raising escapades I’d recount for you now, except I’d like to continue to a.) Stay out of Jail, and b.) Not give my kids way more ammunition than they already have against me.

Boola, boola!


Sheva (BatSheva Vaknin)

I think it means "liquor and very large quantities of beer."

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