“Bubbie, you didn’t give me a present for my birthday!” wailed my four-year-old grandson.

“Of course I did!”


Trying to reason with a sobbing child, I calmly explained: “Remember, I gave you the matching game with the colorful pictures?”

“But that wasn’t a present!” he yelled.

“What? Why…”

“The game wasn’t wrapped! You didn’t give me a present!”

“Ohhh…you mean if I give you a game that’s not wrapped, then it’s not a present?

“Right. You didn’t give me a present!”

Oh! I never knew that a wrapped box made the item a present…at least for a four-year-old. But how could I correct this egregious error? I didn’t want to be known as The Bubbie Who Doesn’t Give Presents!

This conversation happened in December, shortly before Chanukah. Perhaps I had a chance to redeem myself.

“Chanukah is coming. What would you like?”

Said child responded with interesting toy choices such as Ninja turtles and PJ Masks Headquarters.  “OK. I can buy one of those toys for you!”

“But Bubbie…remember to wrap it!”

“Of, course!” I smiled back and gently patted his face. We continued chatting, played some games, read stories, and I visited with the other kids. And of course played catch with Jax, their two-year-old frisky Lab.

As I walked to the front door to leave, Mr. Wrap-the-Present reminded me, “Bubbie, don’t forget to wrap my toy!”

The Importance of Wrapping

Typically, kids excitedly and hurriedly rip the wrapping paper off the box, toss the ribbons to the side, and tear open the box. Wouldn’t simply handing the kid the toy they wanted do the trick? I could smile and say “Happy Birthday”.

Apparently, wrapping the gift matters. From my research—outside of speaking with four-year-olds—I discovered that a wrapped box:

  • builds curiosity: “It’s a large box; what’s inside?”
  • increases anticipation: “Did she get me what I asked for?”
  • boosts the surprise element: “I wonder what this is?”
  • is something people prefer: “It would have been so much more fun to have a cutely wrapped box!”

Redressing the Egregious Error

My oldest grandson and I shopped for his little brother’s gift. We found the oversized PJ Masks toy easily. As we approached the checkout line, I saw wrapping paper and bows. “Better buy the wrapping equipment now so we can bring the gift home prepared.”

“Yup! But how will we wrap it before we get home?” N. wisely asked.

“In the car!” Then I realized I didn’t have scissors and tape in the car. “We’d better duck into the drugstore and get scissors and tape.” I figured it’s always helpful to have spare scissors and tape in the car. Never know when I’ll have to wrap another gift on the road!

Supplies in hand, we set to wrapping the gift. The Honda Civic seats were too small for us to wrap the gift in the back, so we opened the trunk.

“Bubbie, we’d better work fast. I think the weathermen were right for once; looks like rain any moment.”

We unrolled the paper and tried to straighten it out in the confined space. Giggling, we unevenly cut the paper. I placed a portion over the front of the box and taped down the paper. And then the drizzle started. We worked as quickly as we could, laughing about the absurdity of wrapping a gift in the parking lot, in the rain!

The effort paid off! We brought in the large box, covered in blue and silver paper, and topped with navy blue bows. Little brother greeted us wide-eyed and a with a large smile: “You bought me a present!”

Redeemed, at last!


Why do you wrap presents? Jump into the comments and let us know!






I just lit the candle to mark the beginning of my Dad’s second yahrzeit (anniversary of his passing). It’s just me and the candle. No distractions.

I feel pain, yet not as intensely as last year. I feel the loss more acutely now.

In the past year, I had several complex decisions to make. And I often thought, Where’s Dad? I need his counsel!

Not able to chat with him in life, I couldn’t figure out what he would have advised. Stuck. Unsure.

And then I remembered this: Take a piece of legal pad paper. Draw a line down the center. Write Pro on one side and Con on the other. Then make your list. As I wrote those words, I could almost hear Dad relaying those instructions.

The classic Pro and Con list helped. Trying to hear his voice comforted me.


We had happy times in the family during the past year. Dad wasn’t there. I missed sharing the events with him. Did he come in spirit? I believe he did. Yet I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see his smile.

I could conjure up memories of him smiling at other milestones.


Three Generations: Poppy, Grandson, and Great-Grandson




Poppy and Great-Grandson at School


The image of him dancing spiritedly with his grandson—my son—at the wedding came to mind.

Picturing the memory of the wedding dance comforted me.


On the yahrzeit, some of the observances of mourning are in effect. I won’t listen to music today or go to joyous events. I’ll draw on what I learned about simcha (joy) during the year of mourning: Feeling joyful comes from the inside. I can feel joy without the outside stimuli like music. Today, I’ll catch up on my spiritual studies and listen to classes, especially those with an upbeat tone.

And learning in Dad’s memory will comfort me.


L’ilui nishmas (for the elevation of the soul) Yoel Meir ben (son of) Simcha—Joel Sandleman, 26 Tevet 5777 (solar calendar date is January 17).

Photos ©Sherri Leah Henkin 2004-2017.



I arrived in Israel right after Rosh Hashanah (early October). I sensed the spirit of the chagim (holidays) as soon as I landed when I saw the Shanah Tovah (loosely translated as Happy New Year) signs at the airport! My Israel Adventure had begun!!

And it’s been quite a spiritual and physical adventure! Here’s the wrap-up:

  • A long-time friend met me at the airport—her beaming smile warmed my heart! And off we went in our private taxi to my Jerusalem cousins.
  • Friday early afternoon, I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) and merited to pray Mincha (the afternoon prayers) there. kotel-first-friday-afternoon-erev-shabbos-shuva
  • Early Tuesday morning, I travelled to Alei Zahav and spent Yom Kippur with other long-time friends. I enjoy the spirituality in this place, and the view from their porch grabs me each time, since I see the Mediterranean in the distance! alei-zahav-view-from-the-porch
  • Sukkah-building got underway; I heard hammers and drills late into the night after Yom Kippur! My cousins fill their sukkah with original paintings and decorations. As a friend put it, “You are eating in an art gallery!” What a privilege. sukkah-with-succos-painting                                             Artist: Elya Succot
  • Being at the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim (public priestly blessing) is my favorite Succot activity. This year, I was one of the 70,000 who attended! The thunder of that many people answering Amen to blessings inspires me for many months! And in the midst of the crowd, the doves peacefully watched over us. birds-at-birkat-kohanim-blog
  • The lighting effects, fireworks, and sound during the concert in Brechat Sultan (Sultan’s Pool) blew me away! Real feet-stomping and hand-clapping music—with many people dancing in the aisles!lights-brechat-hasultan-concert



  • And then, I travelled to Tzefat (Safed) for the Shabbat during Succot. I toured part of the Artists’ Colony with a friend—and made some purchases, of course! artists-quarter-sculptureOne night a few of us drove to a quiet spot near the Jordan River…we chatted and enjoyed the gurgling of the rushing river. And the stars! WOW—millions of them! I could even pick out some constellations!
  • Back in Jerusalem, a friend and I took in the Valley of the Gazelles…right in the center of the city! gazelle-running
  • I’ve even done some mundane activities such as food shopping, clothes-buying, and helping a friend declutter!

Although my cousins put away the sukkah and the chagim are over, the festive spirit continues. We have a family wedding this week! Our dancing shoes are ready! If you hear loud lively music this week, it’s coming from that wondrous simcha (joyous occasion)!

Wishing all my readers a year full of health, success, joyous occasions, and exciting adventures!

Once I got out of the hot car, I felt the gentle cool breeze. Inhaling deeply, I smelled charcoal mixed with Israeli spices. I walked into the house, and quickly found a corner on the crowded counter-tops to deposit the cut fruit. I wanted to be with that barbecue smell and lively children’s voices.

My daughter-in-law set the tables set in her signature color scheme—black and white with red accents. The tablecloth is white with three-inch black polka dots. We eat off black plates, use white plastic cutlery, and drink from red 16-oz plastic glasses. In between the abundantly-filled serving plates and bowls, there are ruby red votive candleholders. This is one classy lady!

Our food resembled the diverse crowd: Israeli, Moroccan, and American dishes. From the Israelis we had homemade meat kabobs, colorful but very hot peppers, baba ganoush, and other small eggplant and pepper salads. From Morocco we had 9”x13” pans of colorful salads, each with its unique dressing: cabbage, endives, and a few others that had a Spanish influence. And from the good ol’ US—barbecue steak, chicken wings, corn-on-the-cob, and of course, hot dogs. Even the breads represented the different cultures—hot dog buns, pitas, and cut challah!

Of the family, extended family, and friends, I was the only third-generation American. Other folks were born in Egypt, Israel, Morocco, or France. So if you only spoke English, you were out of the conversation! I got to speak English, Hebrew, and even some French…at this Fourth of July barbecue!


The kids downed the food quickly so they could get into the refreshing pool water. Large floating cushions were more exciting than the food and certainly more entertaining than the adult conversation. “I call the pizza!” What?? Pizza after meat?* And then I realized that one of the floating cushions is shaped like a pizza slice, covered with cheese and tomato sauce.

“I want the swan!” And the seven-year-old swam adeptly to the oversized bright pink swan with the black beak.

“I’m headed for the Jacuzzi? Who’s joining me?” Jake called out. He may be 13, yet he enjoys a good pool party to relax! The only being that followed him, though, was Jax, the blonde Labrador…with his tennis ball. Jax dropped his ball in the Jacuzzi and waited a bit impatiently until Jake tossed it back.

By this point, the adults had moved from that classy food table to the far end of the yard, near the pool. We too, enjoyed the antics. And welcomed the shade from the lemon tree and other surrounding tall shady greenery. We settled comfortably on the chocolate brown rattan chairs with off-white cushions. Matching rattan side tables with glass tops displayed the desserts. While these dishes didn’t represent the cultures, we had variety! Home-made hot pecan-chocolate pie, courtesy of Ellen, who enjoys experimenting with new recipes. Fresh juicy red watermelon and orange cantaloupe on a tray, surrounded by one-inch sweet cherries and green grapes. Hashem [G-d], the Master Painter, creates beautiful colors. A custard cake, topped with strawberries, kiwis, and apples called out to some. And the smooth blue and red ambrosia rounded out the dessert choices.

While the kids were intrigued by some of the desserts, when the red and blue popsicles came out, the kids ran from all sides of the pool for these! “I want red!” “Gimme the blue one!” Then they hurriedly jumped back into the water, with the popsicles. Oops! The kids just broke one of the cardinal rules—don’t eat and swim. This Red Cross-trained former lifeguard looked the other way!

Whoosh! Boom! Eli, the other 13-year-old cousin, cannon-balled into the water, splashing all who sat a bit too close! No matter—the cool water refreshed us!

“Hey, Josh, when are you coming in?”

“Not today”, the 24-year-old family friend called out. Dressed in a white polo shirt and jeans, with his collegiate Dockers, Josh tried to act like the young adult. But Eli and Jake pulling at him and the seven-year-old cousins teasing him was just too much to resist…and in Josh went! “Josh’s in the pool! Josh’s in the pool” three-year-old Mickey happily sang.

The kids—and young adult—played for the next hour in the pool as the sun set. The darker the sky got, the brighter the pool lights became. The adults cleaned up. Jax kept running around looking for someone to play ball with him. Occasionally, I gave in and played “catch”, Jax-style.

At about 8:45, we heard the first firework noises. Once the sky was dark blue-black, we finally saw the tip of a white streak in the sky. By this point, the kids were out of the pool, ready for the final evening activity. Semi-dry, they gathered in the front of the house. The large cracks of firework energy and fanciful displays seemed to echo the vibrancy we had seen in the pool.

 white fireworks

  Red fireworks

Double fireworks


Photos ©Sherri Leah Henkin




*Kosher dietary laws–we don’t eat dairy right after a meat meal.

Several years ago, I found this statement, attributed to Claude Monet*:

One could not be any closer to the sea than I am, on the pebbled beach itself, and the waves beat at the foot of the house. You know my passion for the sea…I’m mad about it!

Monet might have made this comment during his stay in Le Havre or on one of his journeys to Normandy’s coastal towns. I’ve not traveled to Normandy; I have lived near the ocean, and I, too, am mad about it!

The soft quiet waves coming in from low tide calm me. Feeling cool blue-green water as I wade at the water’s edge refreshes me. Waves against cliffWatching the waves at high tide rise majestically and crack against the cliffs can scare me, until I sit still long enough to hear the rhythm.

The rhythm produces a symphony; I almost hear the drums and cymbals!

Last week I visited a friend near the Pacific Ocean. Standing near the buildings, I could see the waves, and seagulls. Sea and SeagullsBut I couldn’t smell the ocean air. What’s all this city smell if I’m so close to the ocean?

I walked toward the ocean, away from the buildings, the volleyball players, and the bikers. I dodged the sunbathers and kids building sandcastles. And I stopped to inhale deeply the salty energizing ocean air. I stood on the beach, oblivious to anyone, relaxing into the sea salt and ocean sounds.

The scene reminded me of my girlhood. I saw myself playing on the beach with my friends, building sandcastles. We gathered seaweed to hang as decorations on our sand structures. Then, having tired of the digging, we grabbed our shoe boxes and began our trek along the water’s edge to collect sea glass: colored glass pieces that the sea water had softened. We prided ourselves on how many boxes we could fill with these pastel opaque pieces.

And of course, the memory came up of swimming with my grandfather. We swam as far out as he felt I could—pretty far for a kid—and then swam back. No chatting; these swims were serious business for exercise and bonding!

The waves beat close to the beach house and gave me the gift of a life-long love for the sea!

Dead Sea at Sunrise

*Apologies to my readers: I recorded this quote without a source.

Photos © Sherri Leah Henkin


If I Could Play All Day

©Sherri Leah Henkin, 2016
With gratitude to my grandchildren for their whimsy and to Dr. Seuss for inspiring the rhyming scheme.

I might write the day away,

Or I’d take the kids to play.
Perhaps we’d chase the sun’s ray,
Sun's Ray

And we’d find fun things to say.

“Let’s choose colors,” I might say.
“But why?” asks the child, that day.
“To paint light blue, like the bay;
The color of sky in May.” 

Sky in May

“What about the sun’s bright ray?
What do we paint it this day?”
“Yellow, red, orange,” I say.
“I want red and purple–yay!

yellow, red, orange, purple

I’d eat mint ice cream that day.
And treat the kids the same way.
We’d jump and skip and race all day,
Then under the sun we’d lay.

That’s what I’d do if I could play all day!

 Catch the Run

Photos © Sherri Leah Henkin





Before I even took out the painting supplies, I told Glenna, “I want to paint simcha, joy, happiness!”

“Really? Well, this matches perfectly with what quotes and samples I chose for today’s inspiration!”

Ya gotta love it when teacher and student are on the same wave length!

I took time today to switch from my work with words to work with paint. Earlier in the day I struggled with some of the business activities—writing pitches/marketing and computer login issues—and wanted a break. Additionally, it’s a joyful time of year and in my family, and I wanted to explore those feelings in art. But how?

While looking at Contemporary Painting by Charles LeClair, I learned about the five levels of perception of color:

  • abstract
  • representation
  • material concerns
  • connotation and symbolism
  • emotional expression

Emotional expression grabbed me…that’s it! One painting in that section had dark hues, expressing grief and sadness. Another picture had a bright yellow house outlined in red…I smiled! The paintings evoked precise emotions.

Then we looked at The New Creative Artist by Nita Leland where I saw a list of colors with their psychological associations (p. 87):

Communicate With Color-Leland

The associations fascinated me. Orange relates to sociability and ambition. I focused on the optimism and intuition of Yellow. One of the emotions associated with Red is excitement. Of course I was easily drawn to my favorites Blue and Violet. But today I was up for an experiment.

I’m excited and passionate about the joyous family events; should I paint in Red? It’s so unlike me.

I struggle with the business development and marketing aspects; should I try Orange to counteract my introvertness?

And I’m optimistic and Yellow makes me smile today.

I’ll move completely out of my comfort zone, away from my go-to colors and see what comes out.

I wasn’t sure what I’d place on the blank page…almost never am. Somehow shapes seemed the right form. But I wasn’t even sure which ones…until I saw the stars. I smiled when I saw those star stencils. And although I wanted to use orange, red, and yellow, what do I outline with? Glenna reminded me about contrasting colors with a quick refresher of Color Wheel 101!

I decided to combine watercolor pencils and watercolors to see what would happen. I love to watch the colors drip into each other.yellow star The water flowing from the strong red outline into the bright lemon yellow star created an interesting shade.


Then I gently stroked the water in the brush’s soft bristles over the purple outline and wisped that color into the medium yellow puffy star.

yellow puffy star



I softened the green outline with small amounts of water and slightly blended that with orange.

orange star



But what to do in the middle? I wanted something with circles or soft round edges to offset the starts. We looked for the butterfly shape I’d used once and couldn’t find it. I guess I’m not supposed to paint butterflies today; what else could I use? I saw the curly-cue shape…that’s it! curly-cue shape

I got excited by the shapes and contrasts. I even experimented with a rose shade of a different type of watercolor. As I looked at the curly-cue shape and the lines I’d painted, I realized that unwittingly the abstract perception of color from LeClair’s influenced my work today. The shape looks deeper as I focus on each row of color.

But what to do in the lower right corner? Perhaps some free-hand drawing? Perhaps something easy that I enjoy painting?

noteMusical Notes! Why not! I’ve painted music before! Looking at my color wheel, I found the contrasting colors and painted them into this picture.




The results astonished me! Contrasting shapes, bright colors, symmetry, and large white spaces.

  • The contrasts bring me into the painting. Abstract lines give my eyes plenty to look at; there’s lots of variety.
  • I noticed how white space/negative space is as important in art as it is in the written word. The white space allows my eyes to rest.
  • There’s symmetry with the three connected shapes.
  • The puffy star is off on its own.
  • And the musical notes balance the piece.

full painting

What do I really see here?

My eyes focus immediately on the curly-cue shape; the alternating colors draw me so that suddenly I’m focused on the yellow center that’s surrounded by rose. I could be either the yellow or orange star, attaching myself to a central force that’s always there. The center steadies me, much the way I turn to Hashem (G-d) several times during my day.

Once I have my center, I’m grounded and can move out to new territory. The puffy star moves away—perhaps a new idea whose time has come to fly off and bring me to new exciting places. Where are we headed? What will we see? I think with childlike wonder.

Or maybe that puffy star is an old belief or habit that no longer serves me…and it’s time to let that go. Goodbye! Thanks for traveling with me! Enjoy your new journey!

Possibly that puffy star is the child who is growing up and ready to take off in a new direction. That’s what’s happening in the family now; we’re at a joyous milestone! As long as that puffy star—I mean child—knows where his center his, knows his base, he’ll have a great journey! And I send him off with love!

And the musical notes? Simcha, joy, dancing, fun conversations, a beautiful flower…anything that makes my heart sing!

I’m given interesting circumstances; some are more challenging than I’d prefer. So I have a choice of how to respond. Why not choose joy?


The blog post honors—

  • the Hebrew month of Adar; a month of pure joy where I deepen my connection through love and simcha!
  • my first grandson’s bar mitzvah…a truly joyous milestone!


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