Posted by Julia Bendis
Driving today, I came to a car that broke down. I got out of my car and went to ask if they needed help. As I approached the two men standing around, they both stared at me as if to say: “What do you want?”
I asked if they were alright, and needed any help. At first they didn’t answer me, just kept staring. When I asked the second time, they looked at each other then back at me: “Um no!”. That was it. Um, no. There was no “Thanks but we are good”, or anything. Just plain “No”.
As strange as I felt leaving those two stranded by their car, I got back in my car and drove off.
The moral here? Don’t get out of my car to help strange men.
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July 21, 2011 | 3:30 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
My Dearest Neighbor:
How are you? Hope this note finds you well. Remember the party your threw last weekend at your house? I wanted to thank you for it, unfortunately somehow I did not receive the invitation. Therefore I wanted to ask you if next time you could please hand deliver it directly to me. You see sometimes I don’t check the front door and my kids end up playing with notes and papers they find laying around there. You know the same front door that your lovely children play “Ding Dong Ditch” game with, and leave me fart-bombs? Yes, that one. I am sure that’s the reason why I didn’t get it, but no worries because guess what? I heard the whole party through my bedroom window, and when I sat in my backyard it was almost like I was right there with you! Yes, it was fantastic all the way til midnight when your drunken guests poured out of your house and into the street! My children certainly enjoyed listening to your infectious laughter, and many, many age-appropriate conversations that went on for hours.
I was also very happy about your teenagers’ music selection and that you let him be in charge of it all night long! That Katy Perry Firework song heard for the third time through your speakers facing my bedroom window was awesome. How did he know that Lil Wayne was one of my favorite rappers? So cool! Although I have to say, he could have thrown in a bit of Eminem in there, maybe some of TuPac, Alicia Keys would have brought the energy down a bit towards the end there, Nora Jones would have calmed the shit out of the lovely, screaming children running around barefoot up and down the street. Just some suggestions for your next party.
On a different note I am so grateful for anyone that throws a party after 10 p.m. in my neighborhood, including you. I’ll tell you why. The acoustics are amazing since we live on a cul-de-sac, and every house sits apart from one another only by about a foot, so it makes for a wonderful night. As you can imagine every neighbor within a-100-yard-radius can hear the wonderful sound effects, including my favorite, can you guess what it is? No? Alright I’ll tell you. BASS! Love it! It’s almost like using a vibrator but with the positives of not having to hold it myself! Can you imagine that? Pretty incredible. Aren’t we so lucky to be living in the suburbs where ten homes sit where only two should be? We have the joy of having such wonderful and carrying neighbors that give each other the heads-up about a late-night party. I don’t know about you Dear Neighbor, but I truly feel so blessed!
Anyway, wanted to let you know that I will be having a Summer Blow Out Party next weekend in case you wanted to come over. Oh shoot, I just saw my dog eat your invitation. Crap. I’m so sorry, but don’t worry you can still hear all of it since I will be placing my brand new giant speakers in the backyard for all the neighbors to enjoy. Just FYI, we have some strange friends so if you see some of them frolicking around nude, please don’t be alarmed. Its just a side effect of Ambien, Cocaine and alcohol, and the good news is that it doesn’t seem to last very long. My friend Tatyana is usually done with the nudity side effect within a couple hours. Now my other friends Moshe and Haim have a tendency of bringing this strong Israeli weed with them to every party they attend, and I have a hard time controlling their temper. They usually whip out their Krav Maga skills and tend to break a few things, so if you hear glass breaking please don’t be scared. Again, that doesn’t last very long either. Now the other thing I’d like to warn you about is in the very early morning hours, my children like to blare “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” right in the back yard. It really helps them to get their energy on for the day. I promise I won’t let them start before 6 a.m.
Otherwise, it should be an awesome party. Hope you enjoy!
If you have any questions or concerns, please address them my way and leave it with the neighbor to the right of me.
With lots of love, kindness and mutual respect!
Your Neighbor Julia
July 20, 2011 | 5:25 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
As I walked my dog around the neighborhood last night, in deep suburbia of Orange County, I was completely caught off guard when a man said “Hello!” I am not sure how it is in other suburban areas of this country, but around mine its a pretty uncommon thing to hear. It was such a surprise that I stood there for a second like a deer in the headlights. The guy must have thought I was a bit crazy since it took me some time to muster a “Hello” back.
All the way home I kept thinking how sad it is that we as a society no longer expect people to even acknowledge us as we pass them by. I never expect people to say hello when I’m walking down the street, or to even look me in the eye anymore. But when did it become that way? There used to be a time when I would get offended, if not mad when people didn’t nod their head, or some other way to acknowledge that they see me walking past them. I’d always say hello even if they didn’t.
Living in a Metropolitan city is different, you are walking by people all day long. No one expects you to look at them or send a nod in their direction. But when you live in a place where the only time you are actually WALKING outside is when you are exercising or walking your dog, and once in a while see another human being I do expect that human being to notice that I am there, damn it!
I love the people that go OUT of their way not to make eye contact! You know the ones I am talking about? You are walking down the sidewalk with your pooch, as you notice another person approaching you with their pooch and all of a sudden that guy crosses the street! Or better yet the guy (or girl) that doesn’t know what to do with their eyes; they are trying so hard NOT to look at you as they get closer. You see them looking up at the trees, down towards the dog, they even start talking to their dog out of nowhere. “What a good boy you are! You made a great poopie! Yes you are!” Anything BUT to make eye contact with you!
Is it really that difficult to smile and nod at someone? I am not even asking for a single word, just a smile would be nice… What have we become? Savages? Seems to me like people don’t like people anymore, and if that’s the case then why do they continue to live in a civilized society? You hate to look at others and be polite? Then move to an island where you can stare at yourself and yourself only, and no one will ever cross your path and expect a smile or a nod from you.
Maybe I am expecting too much out of human beings, but when I am out there walking my dog I do expect you to look me in the eye and acknowledge that I am there! Don’t want to do that? Then get off my civilized island!
July 18, 2011 | 9:26 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
Maybe some of you noticed that I haven’t written in the last week. Alright, none of you noticed but that’s not the point. My husband and I took the boys on a long awaited vacation on board the “brand new” Carnival cruise ship called ‘Splendor’, or as I am calling it ‘Ineptness’.
We looked forward to this vacation for months now, my kids even checking off each day on the calendar since this was to be their very first cruise! Frankly, I had always known that Carnival was at the bottom of the barrel as far as customer service and food goes. However, living in Southern California we didn’t have many choices since Royal Caribbean pulled its ships out of this area and we didn’t want to fly to Florida for their Caribbean cruise. What a mistake! We should have spent more and flown there.
Where do I start? Here is the chain of events, pretty much as they happened.
- Feeling extremely proud about the incredible “deal” I got for the two ocean-view rooms, we piled incredible amounts of luggage into my Father’s car and impatiently drove to the Long Beach pier. At the same time, my husband impatiently waited for the moment where I would be forced to turn off my Blackberry and surrender it to him. (Those were the terms of our agreement, and the reality of me not wanting to pay the $10 per kilobyte per text, e-mail or $15 per phone call)
- As we neared the boarding zone, I scrambled to send out the very last e-mail and text… I know. Pathetic.
- Once checked in, we proceeded to take our first corny picture of the cruise, under a make-shift Mexican looking doorway with a huge sign that read: CARNIVAL. Because every doorway in Mexico has an advertisement for a cruise ship over it.
- The first sign of panic hit me as I glanced at our key cards and noticed the name: RIVIERA under deck name. I quickly looked it up on the ship’s map only to confirm my concern that indeed it was the lowest deck on-board… Having called Carnival numerous times to add and change things to our reservations I thought it was a bit odd that none of the eight (8) different representatives that I talked to bothered to mention that: “Oh, by the way just to make sure you know that you are on the very bottom of the ship, just above the crew cabins!”
- As we continued to walk towards the ship I quickly recalled one representative mentioning that our cabins are at the very END of the ship. One more look at the map confirmed that yes in fact that’s where the ship’s engine room and propellers are located. Again, having called Carnival numerous times to add and change things to our reservations I thought it was a bit odd, AGAIN that none of the eight (8) different representatives that I talked to bothered to mention that: “Oh, by the way just to make sure you know that you are on the very bottom of the ship, and also right above the engine, which does make a lot of noise and rattles the cabins making it seem like you are in the middle of an earthquake!” But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
- At this point as I run back to the counter to find out if we can be placed on a higher floor, I am informed that in fact they are completely full! All 3,600 people have shown up for their cruise and they can’t do anything for us… Not knowing just how bad the noise or rattling would be I put it out of my mind and decided not to worry about it. The last time I was on a cruise was over five years ago, and couldn’t remember the layout well anyway.
- Finally on board the Splendor, my kids couldn’t wait to see everything including our cabins. So when we were allowed to go in them, we were all pleasantly surprised by their size and cleanliness! Well, that was until my six-year-old decided to use the restroom and sat in a pool of urine instead. Strange, considering they had just cleaned the cabins before we got there…
Lesson #1: Don’t assume all toilets are cleaned before you get to your cabin on a Carnival Cruise Ship!
- Not wanting to make a big deal, we moved on to explore the ship.
- We decided to check out the food on Lido deck first, since that’s usually the best part of being on a cruise ship! We assumed that would be pretty easy to find since all you have to do is press a button that says: LIDO.
Lesson #2: Do not assume Carnival ships are built by normal/smart engineers. Assume they are built by MORONS.
- Just because the button says LIDO, it doesn’t mean that its where you are going to end up. To go to Deck 9 (which is LIDO deck), from Deck 1 you need to take the elevator to Deck 5, then walk towards the middle of the ship which is very easy to do when you are on a Staples-center-sized ship and always know which direction you are facing. From there you need to walk across a bridge, down one flight of stairs, into the elevators which will ONLY then take you to Deck 9. However, if you were on the wrong side of the ship, you would have to go up two flights of stairs, walk across another bridge, take those elevators up two flights, and then you would be at Lido deck.
Building a ship that you could just walk across from one end to the other would have been way harder!
- The rest of that day went very smoothly, especially after my kids have engulfed three ice cream cones. The next day was spent at sea with kids playing miniature golf, and swimming in the pool. Now, notice back there I didn’t say swimming in the POOLS, I said POOL as in singular one. For the size of this Brand New ship and the amount of people on board (3,600 full capacity), they made sure to build enough for each person to dip their toes in. Once.
- Splendor has three (3) pools, one about 15x15 feet, the other 50x25 feet and the third is ADULTS ONLY pool. Not only are the two so-called kid-friendly pools small and salt water pools but on a typical day at sea full of snotty, bratty, water-splashing children that no one wants to sit next too. And yes I am talking about mine of course, mainly the little one. After the second time he got scolded by the adults, I gave him permission to go into the ADULTS ONLY pool since there was one old lady in there. Of course wherever my six-year-old goes, trouble and more children follow. Within minutes, the ADULT pool was filled with screaming, splashing children. That’s when I gave permission to all the passengers on board to discipline my children, or as my husband says: I gave up.
LESSON #3: Signs do not matter when you are stuck on a boat with a bored child who has done everything else there is to do on a ship!
- Not only were Splendor’s pools a joke, but apparently so are the constant reminders that “reserving of beach chairs is not allowed”. Smart people, a.k.a. people that got up early instead of lazy asses like us who like to sleep in on our vacation (whoever heard of that?), and put their crap on beach chairs next to the tiny pools had seats for the rest of the day next to the pool! What about us, you ask? Well, we found one beach chair and all four of us squeezed into it pretty much every day.
- After a couple days under the sun we decided to take a break and visit their “LIBRARY”. They had a small but great selection of popular books and even board games. Too bad you can only check them out from 3 to 4 o’clock in the afternoon! One day we got there at 4:05 in the afternoon, because that’s how we roll, only to be turned away. So my boys proceeded to do what they do best and play their DSI’s and Ipod’s, in the “LIBRARY”.
LESSON #4: Never forget electronic gadgets for your kids, even when they need a break from them.
- Splendor also has a camp on board the ship, called Camp Carnival. More appropriate name should be Camp Big Joke. The counselors have as much energy and enthusiasm as a sick elephant in the middle of a heat wave. They were so un-interested in entertaining kids that on the first day of sailing, counselors sent the 9 to 11-year-olds on a scavenger hunt throughout the entire ship, by themselves! Now I could be entirely wrong when I say this, but when absolutely nothing makes sense on a ship, when elevators don’t line up to their correct numbers and names, when even an adult can’t figure out how to get from one deck to another, is it really such a good idea to send a bunch of kids on a scavenger hunt? When we came to pick up our 11-year-old after his first try at Camp Big Joke, we were told that he wasn’t back from his scavenger hunt yet… Those that know me well, will know what happened next. Those that don’t… Let’s just say that when I leaned over the table to grab the neck of that particular counselor, my husband’s reflexes kicked in and pulled me back in the fear of being placed in one of those emergency rafts, and sent floating to shore…
A couple days later, we signed our 11-year-old into Camp Big Joke again, looking for some adult time. Ten minutes later he signed himself out. We found him an hour later in his room watching TV.
Lesson #5: A kid only has to be traumatized once before he takes matters into his own hands…
- Let’s talk about food. They definitely do not have 24-hour readily available meals, more like 20-hour readily available meals. As long as you can find them in the maze of this ship! It took us three days to find out that when the buffet is closed, there is a tiny sandwich shop in the corner of Deck 9, all the way in the back of the ship that’s open. We went for three days without an eighth meal!
- When the ship was pulling into Cabo San Lucas on the third day at 5:40 in the morning, we finally learned what those propellers under our cabins were used for. Let’s just say that if you’ve ever been in an earthquake of at least 5.0 magnitude that also made huge pounding and rattling noise at the same time, you will know what I am talking about. We proceeded to get woken up in that same manner for the duration of our cruise! And it gets better. Not only did we get woken up that way every morning, but we also had the joy of having it continue every 5 to 10 minutes throughout the day.
Lesson #6: Don’t get a cabin at the end of the ship, and right above the engine room!
- I am not even going to mention the wonderful customer service and warm welcome that we received. Pretty sure the employees go through a long and tedious process called “Make the guests feel like crap for throwing money away on a cruise, while we have to work like slaves for nine months a year!” We pretty much got menus thrown at us during dinner, and told to go to town with them. No explanation or welcome necessary.
- I also made a mistake of not bringing my own hair-dryer, assuming they provide one like every civilized place in this country. It only took me a couple days to find where they keep it, in the drawer next to the Bible. See picture. But wait, it gets even better. Do you see the chord of the hair dryer? Yes, it is attached to the wall behind the dresser meaning you can only pull it out about a foot! Oh but wait, that’s not all. Do you see that tiny blue button on the handle? Well, the hair dryer will work ONLY if you hold that button down, the whole entire time you are blow drying your hair…- So, I decided to get my hair done for one of the Fancy-Shmancy Nights, only to hear these words from the hair-dresser, every ten minutes: “Boy, do you have a lot of hair! This will definitely take longer than the usual time required!” If my memory serves me correctly, I believe she took her revenge out on my hair by trying to scold my scalp with boiling hot water, and then by burning it with the hair-dryer. Either that or she was taught to keep the hair-dryer on each strand of hair until there is smoke coming out of it, then hold it for a few more seconds and then let go!
LESSON #7: Always, always pack your own hair dryer. And Bible. Don’t know why, just had to throw that in there.
- Besides my half-burnt hair, everything else was going great. Oh, wait no. My kids also got some wind and splashes of ocean water during the night while they slept since their window was missing part of a seal, as in a weathering strip… Yes, that was fun.
And on the last day, as we sat playing UNO and waiting to be disembarked off this wonderful ship, we saw this smart guy, right next to us smoking a cigar next to a “DANGER. NO SMOKING” sign.
LESSON #8: Don’t cruise with Carnival…
July 9, 2011 | 3:20 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
Every time I’m at the Supermarket, I start to remember my very first trip to one just like it. When you come to America from the former Soviet Union and enter ANY grocery store, you are bound to go into shock. As I’ve written before, the shelves of U.S.S.R.’s grocery stores were usually empty so when you see rows and rows of food completely untouched, you wonder how its even possible! I kept thinking why do Americans need five different brands of Raisin Bran? Isn’t one enough? Aren’t they all the same Raisins and Bran? I didn’t know that they made different kinds of stool helper? What my Mother wanted to know was why in the world anyone would want to mix milk and bran together? According to our Jewish stomachs, that would put you in a “diarrhea coma” for at least 3 days! Why would Americans want to do that to themselves?
My then 10-year-old brother wanted to know why Americans can’t share and ship some of that food over to Russia… It only makes sense, I mean when shelves are never empty, doesn’t that mean there is plenty of it? If you don’t need it, share it. That’s the Communist way.
These days when I stand in front of a cereal isle, I still find myself pondering which cereal to get. Too many choices, too many varieties… I am not good with too many choices, but give me two items and I can pick one with no problem. Other people seem to know what they want, I watch them go down the isle, grab a box and leave. Me? Well, you can usually find me still standing there fifteen minutes later. I guess when you grow up without any options, when you are given whatever it is that the government thinks you need… its tough to make a decision. And it doesn’t ONLY apply to cereal, everything in life that requires a choice between many options, I have a hard time with. America is overflowing with tangible things, I don’t know how anyone can ever make a decision. That’s why I usually send my husband to do grocery shopping because if I go there, I won’t be seen for many hours. But, I am learning and getting faster at it. Last week it only took me ten minutes to pick out bread!
July 6, 2011 | 12:01 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
I am just not as Tiger-esque as I had hoped to be this summer, in fact I am the very opposite of the Tiger Mother! But, I did have big plans to become one over the summer break… And even bigger plans to grow a pair when it comes to my children NOT sitting around watching TV, playing the Wii, DSI, Ipod, Shmi-Pod, PSP, STD, GameBoy, PlayBoy, alright you get the point…
As much as I had planned on having a very strict regimen for my kids this summer, I have already failed. The kids have been out of school for three weeks now, but had only read once and done a single sheet of Math. However, I do have very neatly piled worksheets of Math, Reading, Science and History sitting on the kitchen table waiting to be touched! And every morning as I enter the kitchen, I am reminded of what a pathetic enforcer of rules that I am… I keep thinking why can’t I be more tough and strong when it comes to my kids’ summer education? I know I am no Amy Chua or some of my Mom friends by any means, but this is absolutely ridiculous.
Every single time I tell my kids to start reading or doing worksheets, I crumble and give in to their every excuse (do this in a very whiny voice of a 6 and 11-year-old):
-Mom, I am hungry. Can I do it after I eat, again?
- Of course baby! Let me make you some food, because I had just put away your breakfast an hour ago, and you clearly need to eat again.
- Mom, I am just so tired. I played outside with the neighbor kid for a long time. Can’t I just rest for a little bit and then do it?
- Sure baby! Let me make you all cozy on the couch here. Can I whip up some fresh squeezed lemonade for you since I have nothing better to do?
- Mom, my brother woke me up so early this morning, I can’t do any work now. My brain is not up. Can’t I just take a short nap and then do it?
- Of course! Why don’t you go and lay on MY freshly-made bed while I make some cookies for when you wake up!
- Mom, I sat on the toilet for so long this morning, my butt really hurts and I can’t sit and do any work right now. Can I do it later?
- You poor baby! Let me rub your beautiful toches!
You get the pattern here? I know its pathetic, but I am not a Tiger Mother. I am a Yiddishe Mother. That unfortunately comes with a great gift of smothering, over-bearing, over-feeding, over-nurturing, over-touching, over-everything. That is why I enrolled them in summer camp so someone else can do what I can’t, make them Read and do their Math! And when they come home and tell me they did neither one of those things, but play and eat, I will still go to bed happy! Who needs Reading and Math anyway… They will be artists and comedians when they grow up, so who cares!
July 2, 2011 | 2:59 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
The other day a friend of mine told me that I am the only person she knows that still owns an answering machine… Apparently, everyone else in the world has long done away with those and only using electronic voice-mail now. I’m a bit slow with technology, I admit. However, I refuse to give my phone provider an extra $12 per month for voice-mail when I have a perfectly good answering machine! Who cares anyway, not a soul calls my land-line and they haven’t since 2008. The only reason I still have a land-line is because I get a huge package discount for having cable, internet and phone service. A whole 10 Bucks!
My pre-historic answering machine reminded me of my parents outgoing message back in the day. Our first answering machine in this country was a memory I will not easily forget. My Father had to record the outgoing message, being the man of the house and all. However, after months of listening to one hang up after another we finally decided that my Dad’s threatening and a bit disturbing message had to go… This is what he recorded (now do this with a very heavy Russian accent): “You have reached the Beynarts, WE NO HOME. WE COME BACK AND FIND YOU!” For the audio version, CLICK HERE Would anyone leave their name and number on this machine?
I always wondered why my friends NEVER left messages. The next day at school they’d say: “Hey Julia I called you and called you all night. I think I got the wrong number, it was some KGB hotline.” Um, no its my Dad.
My brother and I pleaded with him to let us record a new message, “Dad, you are scaring off all our friends. Can’t we just record a Normal message?” Here is how that conversation went (again, do this with a heavy Russian accent):
Dad: Are their parents lawyers?
My Brother and I: No.
Dad: Are their parents Doctors?
My Brother and I: No, I don’t think so.
Dad: Are they engineers?
My Brother and I: Not sure Dad.
Dad: Are their parents FBI?
My Brother and I: No, we are pretty sure they are not.
Dad: You NOT need any friends.
June 29, 2011 | 4:22 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
1. Why Oh why do people insist on asking how you are doing, when they don’t plan on listening to the answer? Just say “Hello” and keep walking! But don’t ask people how they are, and then interrupt them mid-sentence to tell them how late you are and need to run!
2. Why is it that THESE days before kids can go on any play-date, you have to do a background and criminal check on the parents first?
3. Why do people waste money on Therapists when all you have to do to “De-Stress” yourself is sit, and pet your dog for an hour?
4. Instead of calling someone back why do people E-MAIL back instead? If I wanted to e-mail you, I would have emailed you on the first place! Yes, I know sometimes I’ve done it too, but only if its way too late to call and I always call back the next day. If I call you, that means I want you to call me back, not e-mail, or text or Instant Message me!
5. Why do people come up with excuses for not being able to do one’s job instead of just admitting that they are lazy? It would save so much valuable time!
6. While driving around, I always make a mental note and try to remember locations and names of random stores, restaurants and specialty shops! For example, for years now I have been telling myself to remember this shop that sells all kinds of Uniforms, e.g. for Nurses, Doctors, vets, etc… Why? I have no idea. Just in case one day I decide to become a Medical Nurse and need to know where to get the Uniform…
7. What is the difference between verbal gossip, and spreading rumors in person versus what you read online? How is one different from the other? One is verbal gossip and the other is written gossip. Is there a difference?
8. Why is it when I order chicken with noodles at a restaurant, every once in a while I also get a few pieces of rice in there or some other food that I didn’t order, and which doesn’t belong? Its almost like they were making my food along with someone else’s and I got a part of it! What if they were making fish for the other guy, isn’t that cross-contamination? If I order noodles, I want noodles. I don’t want bits of rice in there too!
9. Why do people always complement on the clothes you are wearing, instead of how you look? I didn’t make the shirt, I just picked it out. Don’t tell me you like it, tell me you like my taste or how I look in that shirt. That makes more sense. You like the shirt, go tell it to the manufacturer!
10. And last but not least… Why are people so inconsiderate when out in public? If you have a cart full of groceries, but there is a person behind you that has two items, don’t be a jerk and let that person go in front of you! Its not going to kill you, trust me.