“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!






While in Israel, I needed two adapters for my American chargers. I knew what the adapter looked like but didn’t know the term in Hebrew. My cousin suggested that I might find the adapters in the local hardware store.

I easily located the store a couple blocks from my temporary Jerusalem home. I couldn’t translate the information on sign. The window display of light bulbs, hammers, and extension cords gave me clues that I’d found the store!

The customers waiting at the counter blocked the entrance. I waited semi-patiently until there was an opening in the crowd.

In my limited Hebrew, I asked the cashier if he spoke English.

Lo.” (“No”)

Uh, oh. How do I ask for this now?

Visuals to the rescue!

On the counter, I saw an appliance that had a plug similar to my charger. Using my stilted Hebrew, I pointed to the plug. Slowly I explained that I have something from America that has a plug and want to use it in Israel. Where is something I can use with this plug?

Sham, b’mageivot,” and he pointed in a general direction down the aisle.

I’m grateful the cashier pointed, because that was all I initially understood. As I walked down the aisle, I repeated his instructions. I knew that sham meant “there”. OK. I wracked my brain’s RAM and figured out that mageivot meant “drawers”. Progress!

Down the aisle I found drawers—lots of them—and all neatly labelled…in Hebrew!

My ability to read Hebrew is slower than my conversational ability. Methodically, I read some labels to figure out the system: From Location Name (such as Europe) to Israel. Finally, I found the drawer for America. Success! I pulled out two of these precious adapters. I clutched them as if they were my trophy for winning a marathon!


After I paid for my trophies, I asked the cashier, in Hebrew, “How do you say this item in Hebrew?”adapter


 I learned a new word!


“May I use your cell phone?” my bus seat mate asked, in perfect Israeli Hebrew.

Huh? She doesn’t have one? I thought everyone had a cell phone!

“I need to call my daughter. May I use your cell phone?” my seat mate persisted.

“Oh, sure! Here.”

“Will you be charged for the call?”

Confused by the question, all I could say is “Huh?” She repeated the question and added, “I’ll pay for the call.”

“Oh! No, need. The calls are free,” I responded in my broken Hebrew.

That settled, my seat mate called her daughter. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, yet couldn’t help overhearing the exchange with her daughter.

“Hi, dear,” my seat mate said in the Queen’s English! Mother and daughter chatted quickly about meeting details or something. After she ended the call, she handed me the phone with a pleasant Toda (thank you).

“No problem,” I responded in American English. “We could have done the initial conversation in English!” We giggled about the conversation and chatted how we were both trying to be Israeli. A lady standing near us joined our laughter and conversation. The three of us heaped blessings on each other for a year of health, joy, blessing from our families, abundant income, and anything else we could we could think of.

Where else would a cell phone loan lead to blessings?


The four double-busses, packed with passengers stood on the street.


Nothing moved. Clearly I wasn’t getting on a bus anytime soon, so I took a seat on the low cool stone wall outside Jerusalem’s Old City…me and hundreds of other bus-less passengers.

“Hey! That lady has a cell phone; ask her to use it,” a 10-year-old boy said to his buddy in colloquial Hebrew.

[I don’t know their names, so let’s call them Yishai and Doron.]

Doron turned to me and in rapid-fire Hebrew asked if he could use my cell phone. From my previous experience, I knew that question meant he didn’t have a cell phone. Without questions—my Hebrew is no match for a 10-year-old—I handed Doron the phone. He punched in a number and waited. No answer. Doron closed the call, and sighing returned the phone to me with a quick Toda. Yishai said something to him that I couldn’t understand and we parted ways.

I decided to trek back through the Old City and head home via the Jaffa Gate. That meant hiking up the road inside the Old City in 90 degree heat, without water. (Why had I forgotten to take bottle of water?) As I walked up the hill, I realized I had lots of company! Part way through the Old City, the police redirected us to a different exit route. Unfamiliar with those roads, I asked a friendly-looking woman if she knew the way; she did. I tagged along with she and her family.

I kept my eyes on this woman, intent on not getting lost. The shrill ringing I heard shocked me. I wasn’t sure what rang and looked around expecting some emergency vehicle to show up! Finally I realized that the persistent tone was my cell phone. I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, and planned to press the Reject button.

Oh! Wait! Maybe it’s the person Doron called from my phone! I answered the call. Sure enough, it was Doron’s mother. She spoke in the same speedy Hebrew as her son. I patiently explained that I’m not fluent in Hebrew and Doron’s Mom slowed down.

“Did you see my son? Is he with you?”

“No, he’s not with me now. We met at the bus stop and he used my phone there.”

“When was that?”

“About 40 minutes ago” I guessed.

“So he got on the bus?”

“I don’t know. None of the busses were moving. I left the area to walk home.”

“But do you think he got on the bus?” she anxiously asked again. I really wanted to help her even though I didn’t know her. If it were me, I’d want as much information as I could get!

Calmly I said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what he did. But he was with his buddy and I’m sure they stuck together. There were lots of people; none of us could get on the bus.”

“Ah. Good! He’s with his friend.”

“Yes. I’m close enough to walk home so I decided to leave the bus stop. That was about 40 minutes ago.”

“OK. Thank you so much! Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday!)

I’m sure Doron and Yishai made it home safely.


Where else in the world would I loan a child my cell phone? Where else in the world would I take a call from an unknown person and try and piece together what happened?

And where else in the world would the person I couldn’t help thank me enthusiastically and bless me?

Only in Israel!

Bus photo from site

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.

From the title you might think this post will describe physical exercise. Or perhaps the body mechanics of lifting heavy equipment.

Nope. Mechanics here refers to those talented individuals who service our cars at auto repair shops. I have new esteem for these folks since I spent this past Monday morning with several of them!

My morning plan was to drive to the local Pep Boys and replace two front headlight lamps. I chose that type of store since they have a large stock and could repair the lights early in the morning. Great, I thought, I’ll be done by 9 and on my way home!

On the way to the repair, this bright orange light in the speedometer area went on. Hmmm…I know that means something, but what? I knew the light wasn’t for the battery—I learned about that light two months ago—and knew the orange outline didn’t resemble an oil can. By process of elimination, I figured out I was looking at the engine light.

Working hard not to panic, I moved into Action Mode, planning the calls I’d make once I reached the repair shop. I transitioned to Philosophy Mode—it’s the car, it’s not me or a member of my family. That thought process brought me to Prayer Mode—Please G-d, make this something really simple and inexpensive! Thank You!

When I got to the Boys (as Pep Boys employees call themselves), they told me they couldn’t do the repair. While the Boys worked on the headlights, I worked on calling my mechanic. We arranged that I’d bring my car to his shop by 9:30. The headlight bulb replacement took a bit longer, which turned out to work in my favor. I had time to make some calls, and decided to call my friend in Israel. I stood in a lot in Los Angeles speaking with her in her home in central Israel—from my cell phone! The wonders of technology!

Once the Boys finished, I headed to my mechanic’s shop. Thankfully, no more dashboard lights lit up! The mechanic discovered that there was an evaporation problem, a leak somewhere. Consequently, he had to give the car a complete physical.

I left the mechanic-doctor to his work and headed over to the local coffee shop. I got some exercise as a result. Since I had notebooks, pens, pencils, and digital devices with me, I kept myself productively busy. And bonus—I had a gift card for the coffee shop—so I could treat myself to free refreshments!

The mechanic-doctor called to report his final diagnosis. The leak was…drum roll…from the broken seal on the gas cap! All other engine-related items were fine. A simple and inexpensive repair.

My prayers aren’t always answered so clearly and quickly. I hope I didn’t cash in all my chips this time, as I whispered a prayer of gratitude.

Spending Monday morning at the mechanics’ shops was a minor inconvenience that taught me to look at the big picture.

Gratitude—it was daytime, repair places were close to home, able mechanics, friends, and the light went on while I was already on the way to a repair shop.

Perspective—I’m fine, my family is fine, it’s only a car. A car is a machine whose parts wear out. Some parts need repair and some need to be replaced.

♦Be prepared—I had my cell phone, notebooks, pens, money for the repair, and even a gift card!


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





I’m not a prophetess; nothing clairvoyant in what I have to share. I am transitioning from foggy vision to seeing clear, crisp lines and colors. During the past month I underwent cataract surgery, truly an eye-opening experience (pun intended)!

I went into the surgery thinking that right after the out-patient operation, I’d see clearly immediately. I didn’t really understand that there was a process to attaining the vision clarity!

I didn’t really understand before the surgery what it would be like to not get the eye wet for four or five days. Taking a shower involved wearing tight-fitting goggles. goggles

At night, I covered my eye with an unattractive patch that the surgery center graciously provided. They also provided the opaque tape and instructions. patch

Going outside—sun or haze—includes wearing oversized sunglasses. eyeglassesAdmittedly, they’re kind of cool, although rather bulky. And when the sun shines brightly into my home, I close the window shades and wear these eye shades!

I couldn’t understand why my eyes were blurry for several days. Reading a book or online content, or even writing, was painful. Those activities stressed the eye muscles. Late yesterday afternoon, my eyes sent a loud message to me:

“Lady, close us on your own or we will shut down until further notice!”

I listened; I didn’t need a second warning. I shut all the lights except for one nightlight so that I could see my dinner. I turned off all digital devices. I felt my head relax because my eye muscles weren’t strained.

“Thanks, Lady. We’re starting to feel much better!”

As I type these words, one eye is still blurry…it’s only been a week since that surgery. This vision transition is a process. I get to learn patience, and I learned that this character trait is one of my weakest! Sigh. But I seem to be catching on quickly.

Signing off now so I can go rest the eyes before they start screaming to the neighbors about “Eye Abuse”!


A note to my in locus support system—THANK YOU—for…the grocery deliveries, the goggle purchase, driving me to and from appointments, getting up before dawn to take me to surgery, and supporting me through this process!

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