In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

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Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

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Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2004 /10 Teves, 5765

News From the Good Ship Lollipop

By Judy Gruen

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | At this time of year, friends, relatives and colleagues whom you never really cared for and haven't seen in years are jamming your mailbox with their annual New Year's letters. These salutations are often Jamesian in length and contain more cheery news than could fit on the Good Ship Lollypop. I wonder: is any real family's life filled with so much unremitting happiness and success?

Last week I got one such missive from Ruth, a fourth cousin eight times removed. I probably have more genetic similarity to the Sultan of Brunei than I do to Ruth, whom I may have met when I was 4 years old. Still, our familial and geographic distance hasn't dampened her enthusiasm for keeping me posted on her family's uncanny tidal wave of success, year in and year out. Enclosed with a glossy, color photo of Ruth, her husband Sherman, their three smiling kids and Labrador, was this letter:

"Dear Friends and Family,

Wow! Can the year be ending already? It seems just yesterday I wrote our 2003 letter and told you about Sherman's winning the Ironman triathlon and his being promoted to district supervisor for Big Loans 'R Us Bank & Trust. Honestly, I couldn't imagine that anything could top that!

But Fortune has smiled on our family again in 2004. Sherman's cost-cutting analysis at Big Loans 'R Us earned him a cruise to the Caribbean for the whole family, and it was the trip of a lifetime! If they hadn't had all those jazzercise classes on board, I'm sure I would have come home as big as our breakfast nook! Sher's athletic training continues to pay off, and he kept the Ironman title he won last year, beating out guys 10 years his junior.

I may have mentioned last year that Garth won a full academic scholarship to Duke, but in case that detail slipped my mind, Garth won a full academic scholarship to Duke. In addition to making Dean's List, he's also the youngest starter Duke has ever had on their basketball team! Not bad for a kid who's only 5'8"! Lydia is drum majorette in the high school band, and also heads the Teen Division of our neighborhood's anti-poverty campaign. Between school, band practice, and the anti-poverty campaign, I don't know how she also finds time to tutor learning disabled kids, but somehow she manages. Not to be outdone, Emerson has won the national Spelling Bee (you may have seen his photo in USA Today). This was the first time a private school student beat those pesky homeschoolers, who had wrapped up the National Spelling Bee for several years running. You can imagine how proud we are!"

I wasn't sure how much more of Ruth's letter I could stomach without needing an injection of insulin, but like a lookie-loo slowing down to see a traffic accident, a perverse curiosity drove me forward. I continued reading.

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"As for me," Ruth rattled on, "The government finally granted my patent on a herbal-based skin cream that does everything that Botox can do, only without freezing your facial expression. And to think I came up with the idea while pruning our garden! (You may recall that our garden was featured in an issue of Metropolitan Home as an example of what you can grow in a small space). Now that I have secured investors, I'm hoping to take my new company public sometime in 2005. I must say I'm pretty darned excited!

Finally, we can't neglect our faithful dog, Gastro. After extensive research, we found a suitable female purebred Lab whom Gastro could "get to know," in the biblical sense. The results are seven adorable Lab pups who fetched top dollar! Gastro will also appear in a new book to be published this year featuring dogs in comedic situations. He will star on several pages, including one where he looks "doggone" dashing, donning sunglasses and a visor!

I hope the New Year brings good things to all of you. Remember, you can always catch up on our family news and see new photos of us on our web site, tooperfectfamily.org. I look forward to hearing from all of YOU!"

Ruth signed off just in time, because by this point if I saw another exclamation mark I think I would have screamed and frightened the neighbors. I considered Ruth's invitation to write about my family's news. But how could I compete? Still, my family was nothing to be ashamed of, and I sat down to type my own end-of-the-year summary.

"Dear Friends and Family,

The Gruens are closing out 2004 in much the same way we did 2003: the garage still needs clearing out, the toilet in the guest bath still doesn't flush quite right, and I really do mean to fix that this year since it sometimes causes anxiety among visitors. Once again the family business nearly lost its lease and this caused much nail-biting, but fortunately the landlord was indicted on tax fraud and while he's in the poky our lease automatically renewed for another three years, so we are sleeping easier at night.

We were honored in a manner of sorts by the local library as the patrons with the most overdue books and heaviest fines. They even took a picture of us holding a pile of overdue books and hung it up in the branch for a whole month. Some folks from the neighborhood even began to recognize me in the grocery store. It may not be fame exactly, but it's nice to be recognized nonetheless.

I also received a record number of rejections from book publishers this year. However, I don't plan to rest on my laurels and certainly plan to top this number in '05. Everyone knows that the most successful authors of all time boast of having collected hundreds of rejection slips before they made the big time. I'm just making sure I cover all my bases.

The kids are doing swimmingly as well. In 2004 we received far fewer phone calls from the school principal than in previous years and the boys have logged fewer hours in detention, so we are clearly moving in the right direction. I'm pleased to report that during our last dental visits everyone in the family was found to have less plaque than they had the year before, and we are really taking our gum health more to heart (if you can excuse the mixed metaphors). Also notable in 2004: our youngest took the bold step of agreeing to eat a green vegetable, and her essay, "The Secret Life of Plankton," was published by the fifth-grade newspaper. We are, as you can imagine, quite proud."

I stopped to review my letter. My family's achievements were so lackluster compared Ruth's family's plucky accomplishments, but we all can't be overachievers. Besides, overachievement is overrated in my opinion. Too many of them flame out too quickly, having had no experience dealing with adversity. Slow and steady wins the race, I always say.

Because I had exhausted myself trying to think of more impressive highlights of our year, I took a break to get some vital projects done around the house. After clearing the garbage disposal of a plastic bottle cap and cleaning the hamster's cage, I felt a renewed sense of accomplishment (perhaps the type that eluded my distant cousin Ruth) and got back to the computer to finish off my letter.

"In addition to several new writing projects, my goals for 2005 include finding an auto mechanic who will finally find out why the car keeps making that awful rattling sound when I put the gear in reverse, and making an appointment to have a family portrait taken. I realize that if I continue to wait until everybody is out of braces, some of us may be in dentures. To think that the youngest didn't even have teeth when we took the last professional photo is, well, kind of embarrassing.

In short, nothing extraordinary happened in 2004, and for that I am grateful. No one is sick, in the slammer, in the nuthouse, or on the street. The kids may sometimes have attitude, but they don't have tattoos or body piercings, at least none that I have seen.

Wishing you all a terrific 2005!"

I mailed my letter to a few friends, and even to Ruth. I indicated a new return address on Ruth's envelope with a big fat arrow, so she would think we had moved. This was my only assurance that I wouldn't receive her 2005 letter, in which Ironman Sherman would no doubt have become governor of their state and Ruth would have made the Fortune 500 list.

Now I'm off to check my mail. Wish me luck that today it's only bills and catalogs.

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JWR contributor Judy Gruen is an award-winning humor writer and a columnist for Religion News Service. Read more of her columns and order autographed copies of her books on www.judygruen.com. To comment, please click here.

© 2004, Judy Gruen