Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Conversations

Oddly school breaks lead to us having fewer meals together.  Actually, we have fewer meals.  Everyone seems to eat as they choose.  Sean and I have actually gone out with friends a number of nights.  We even went to the movies.

Instead, we spend different time around the table.  Last night and tonight we introduced the kids to a new (old) TV show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway."  It's the show "where everything's made up, and the points don't matter."  Sean and I discovered it when we were first married.  We watched the BBC version on a tiny TV in our Jerusalem apartment.  We continued to watch when the show came to the US, and, last night, rediscovered it.  We started with bloopers (not G rated) then moved on to full episodes.  It's both amazingly intelligent and wonderfully juvenile all at once. It led to conversations about the Rat Pack and Sammy Davis Junior, about what's appropriate on television, censorship, and lots and lots of laughter.

Not every time around the table needs to be erudite, but it's great when it combines with lots of fun.

Weathering the Storm

It has been a week plus since we spent a day without power.  The city is still getting itself back to normal.  Sean has been continuously preparing for the storm we just had.  He's put flashlights and batteries away.  We've stocked up on some foods.  Today I finally was able to buy salt for the driveway.

The funny thing is, the things that Sean has prepared were things on which we did okay.  The most glaring example: flashlights.  We have tons of flashlights.  Not all work, but most are fine.  Saturday night prior to the storm, I told the kids to make sure they had flashlights by their beds.  This was an easy task since they have multiple flashlights from camp.  Sean had a flashlight on his bedside table.  I have a reading light.  We had two more in our dresser.  One large one, which can also be a lantern, lives on the porch with our camping lantern.  Another lives outside the kitchen.  There's one more on my keys, easily found.  Batteries have a home in the basement, also easily found.  We always have lots of AA and AAA.  Suddenly, we needed five flashlights in the dresser, with a second set of batteries for each.  The kids began to complain they no longer had flashlights.  I said something to Sean.  He returned them.  We didn't need to put them aside.  They're already findable.

Much more helpful was his regular calling of Home Depot to see when their salt came in.  I finally bought some today, three 20 lb bags, plus one to return (we borrowed one).  Oddly, I usually have 3-4 bags in the garage.  I tend to over-salt.  I don't like to slip.  Sean's been doing the salting when he leaves for work.  Unfortunately he wasn't as neurotic as I in buying the salt, and didn't tell me when we ran out.  That's unlikely to happen again.  I'll probably buy more next week.

What we haven't done- we still haven't really prepared food.  We do have lots of water and some canned foods.  For years we've talked about having a couple of cases of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat, created for the military).  There's a pretty good kosher version made by My Own Meals.  You can eat the cold, or even get heaters.  You just prop them up on "a rock or something," and you're good to go.  It's a chemical heater.  After, you can put the heater in your pockets to keep you warm.  Hopefully Sean will work on that.  It's the one area we've allowed to really slip over the years.  Otherwise, as long as Gavi and Jesse keep dancing (see Unplugged), we'll all be fine.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Family Unplugged

It's been a rough week in the GTA. Many are still without power.  We were part of the lucky ones. We lost power for only 20 hours. While cold, it was a day I would not have wanted to do without.

First, it made us sit up and realize that while we thought we were prepared, we were not as prepared as we thought. We allowed our ice-melt supply to run very low. Normally I keep about 30 pounds in the garage, plus special stuff for our steps. We were left only with the specialty ice-melt. Our battery supply was not what it should have been. We had plenty of batteries for flashlights, and a plethora of flashlights that worked (the seem to accumulate like wire hangers or single socks). We had told the kids to have flashlights by their beds in case of power loss. We have a CD/radio, but it uses 6 "C" batteries. We had 4. Thanks to Steve who brought us some. We realized how dependent on the internet we are. Neither of us has data available on our phones, so that was simply lost to us. There is no plan to change that in the future. It's also not enough to have canned stuff in the house, if it's not food you want to eat on its own. Our tuna supply was low. Water, taco shells, pureed tomatoes, and Israeli pickles is not an emergency plan. We talked for years bout getting MRE's. It's now time we do it.

Second, it made us realize how prepared mentally we were. We knew Saturday night we'd likely lose power, so there was no surprise. We have plenty of candles, flashlights, and matches. We have a cache of wood for the fireplace. It's kept in the garage, but we can open it with a key in case of lost power. There were food places open. We had bagels for breakfast and laffa for dinner. We moved food from the fridge to the deck. We remained calm, and planned as we needed to.

Finally, we're good at being unplugged. Not knowing how long the outage would last, we suggested to the kids they not use laptops, etc, but save them for when they got really stir crazy. Keren wasn't feeling great, but a comfy bed of blankets in front of a fire, and parents to cuddle with works out well. Our children are all readers, and we have a large library to keep them busy. We worked on a puzzle (finished on Tuesday). When the boys got a little stir crazy they decided to listed to music on the CD player. This led to an amazing air guitar show. They leaped about while Jesse played their invisible harmonica. Gavi was in charge of guitar. A hockey stick was his electric guitar; our old hobby horse the acoustic. Sean videoed a set so we can show it at their weddings.

As the light faded, the kids got a taste of what darkness really is. Even at camp or out camping there is always ambient light. They agreed it was eerie to listen to the quiet in the quickly approaching darkness. We threw another log on the fire, and cuddled up together with our books. Towards evening's end, the kids decided to watch a movie we'd all enjoy. They picked Night at the Museum with nary an argument. Then we all headed up to the masted bedroom to huddle up together to sleep. It was at this point the lights came on and, more importantly, the heat. The kids decided we should go ahead with the sleeping plans. After all, what's more fun than a sleep-over, and it wasn't warm yet.

The next day we were all grateful for the power and the heat, but they lamented a little bit over the loss of the opportunity. Insightful for them. Interesting for us.

I hope you are all safe and warm.

Parashat Vayera- Many Out of One

...hinei Anokhi nogeif et kol g’vul’cha batzfar’d’im. V’sharatz ha’y’or tzfar’d’im v’alu u’va’u b’veitecha uvakhadar mishka’v’cha v’al mitatecha u’v’veit a’vadecha u’v’amecha u’v’tanurecha u’v’mish’a’rotecha…. Vayeit Aharon et-yado al meimei Mitzraiyim vataal Ha’tz’fardei’a va’t’khas et-eretz Mitzraiyim
…Behold, I will strike all your borders with frogs. And the rivers will swarm with frogs, and they will go up and come into your house and into your bedroom, and on your bed, and into your servants’ home, and upon your people, and into your ovens and in your kneading troughs…. And Aaron stretched his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt. (Shmot 7:27-28, 8:2)
Pirkei Avot (5:9) lists 10+ miraculous items created during the very last moments of creation.  Among them are the mouth of Bilaam’s donkey, Aaron’s staff (that transforms). The inscription of the 10 Commandments and the tablets, and the first pair of tongs (since you need tongs to make tongs).  As a result of this mishnah, Rambam asserts that all miracles must be part of the natural world. Exceptions to this must have been built into creation, and therefore into nature.
Throughout history there have been many explanations as to the natural series of events that may have created the plagues. One particular piece is more difficult to explain.  The frogs are to be a widespread plague, but when Aaron holds out his hand, only one frog appears. Rationalist, such as Ibn Ezra, state this is merely referring to the genus, but that there were actually thousands of frogs at that moment. Rabbi Akiva taught there was one frog. The Egyptians beat the frog, and others flew from it. Midrash teaches the thousands emerged from the mouth of the one.
While the modern mainstream follows the rational thought of Ibn Ezra on this occurrence, there are fascinating natural phenomena that may inform us. The Northern Gastric Brooding Frog, native to Australia, swallows her eggs, allowing them to develop in her stomach. Fully developed frogs emerge from the mother’s mouth. In Darwin’s Frog of South America, the male swallows the eggs, storing them in specialized sacks until they are fully developed. Three species seem to shed babies from their backs. The male Marsupial Frog holds tadpoles in pouches on his hips until they are developed. The male Midwife Toad, of Europe and northern Africa, carries its eggs until they are ready to hatch. He then deposits the tadpoles into water. Finally, the Surinam Toad flips during mating so the eggs are caught between the male and female, and become embedded in the female’s spongy skin. More skin grows over the eggs, allowing them to gestate in protected pockets. When developed, the frogs emerge from their mother’s back, although flexing can also forcibly eject them.
We cannot know if the Rabbis knew of any species that displayed such interesting reproductive oddities. Likely, the rationalists were correct, and this is just a case of life imitating Torah.
Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Conversations From the Rabbis' Table

Meals at our house are interesting things. In this world of crazy schedules and too many gadgets, we still manage to eat most of our breakfasts and lunches together. Conversation flows (well, not always at breakfast) like a daf of Talmud. One word reminds someone of another story and another and another, until the tangent is more important than the start. 

Our conversation is sometimes immensely normal, and at other times just what a stereotype of a two rabbi family might entail. Breakfasts are a fascinating study in the human condition. Keren and I are most certainly NOT morning people. We are barely capable of speech, let alone thought. Gavi and Sean are decided morning people. Their morning begins with wrestling and dive bombing stuffed animals. They are loud and boisterous. They are happy. Jesse is somewhere in the middle, miserable until awake, then amazingly annoying (at least to my non-morning brain).

Breakfast conversation cannot usually be classified as conversation. "Conversation (noun)- The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words." (Thank you apple dictionary.) Like most parents, Sean and I spend a lot of time rushing the kids along. There are t'fillot to say, shoes to don, and backpacks to pack. Keren is incapable of speech, and usually communicates in short dissatisfied grunts, nose in a book. Jesse is either argumentative or nudgey. Being a teen and the older brother, he feels it is his right and responsibility to correct, discipline, and generally annoy his younger siblings. This is punctuated by exasperated exhalations when something does not run smoothly, such as his contact lens not leaping into his eye by its own volition. There are reminders of how everyone is getting where after school, and things that need to happen. I imagine it's a typical household. Of course, there are the times when Jesse is excited about something at school. Then conversation turns to quadratic equations, history, and talmud. Gavi will jump into any discussion of military history. If there is discussion of mythology, Keren perks up and may even leap in. Regardless, Gavi usually has something to say, often about meteorology. He will glance out the window, and begin to explain the clouds, their nomenclature, and what the weather for the day will be. I usually have to stop him at this point. "Gavi," I say, "You know my brain isn't awake. Please repeat what you said, slow, and with small words." He smiles and runs through it all again. If I'm lucky it'll only take three to four times to get it.

Sunday breakfasts make more sense. Sean isn't home, but by 11-ish we're all up and ready to eat. The kids usually ask for pancakes, although popovers or waffles aren't unheard of. There is fruit and there is chocolate. Then the conversation turns to memories. Jesse likes banana, strawberry, chocolate pancakes. The trippers at Ramah make them on the camping trips. Jesse will wax on about the sights he's seen and the canoes he has carried. This may lead to other camp reminiscences or memories from family camping trips. I will tell stories of their antics when they were smaller. It's a leisurely meal without the grogginess and rush.

Dinners have their ups and downs. We have dinner together at least four nights a week. Two other nights there are at least three of us. Saturday night tends to be a night of foraging for all. The conversation is more erudite. There is lots of laughter (and some annoyance). This is the time when our children really show they're the children of two rabbis, at least when they're not poking each other in the ribs and chasing the cat.

This is a topic I've long wondered on. How are our conversations different from others. I have long wanted to somehow record them. We've tried some nights, with varied success. I may still try. But for now, I shall content myself with trying to record some brief details here. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Adolescence is a fascinating (and aggravating time) for parents. Our daughter is fully in. There are, of course, the physical changes. She looks older than her years. She's taller than her older brother. (He'll beat her out eventually, but she can rub it in now.) It means she can burst into hysterics for no apparent reason (even to her). It also means she's still very much a little girl.

Last night she went to her first bat mitzvah party. She chose her outfit as carefully as any teenage girl. We have a plethora of fancy hand-me-down dresses from older cousins. The dress by itself was much too sexy for an 11 year old, but paired with a tank top to raise the neckline and a cropped knitted sweater (pinned shut- Keren's idea) to cover her shoulders, it was lovely. The shoes were heeled sandals that I could happily wear (and might).

Keren headed off with a group of camp friends to celebrate their first coming-of-age. I waited up late for her arrival home, something I expect I will do many, many more times in the next 8-10 years. We'd been visiting friends, and brought a friend of Keren's home for a sleep-over. Twenty minutes after Keren arrived home, I went up to her room to turn off the light. On the floor were the two girls. Keren was still wearing her party clothes. Strewn across the floor were "Littlest Pet Shop" animals and accessories.

She may be playing dress up like a big girl, but the little girl is still very much in there.

Parashat Shemot- Names Have Power

V’eileh shmot b’nei Yisrael habaim Mitzraimah et Yaakov ish uveito ba’u.
And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt with Yaakov; every man with his household came. (Shemot 1:1)
Thus begins the book of Shemot, of Exodus. The process of naming is an interesting one. In the Torah we name parshiyot and books for the first unique words. We have Breishit, Shemot, Vayikra, B’midbar and D’varim. However we also use the English chapters and names that have come to us through others. Chapter and verse numbers provide easy reference, but the changing of names becomes a different issue. English names are given to biblical books based on perceived themes: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. While there is some overlap, the meaning in most of the names changes.

Breishit - In beginning                            Genesis - Origin
Shemot - Names                                      Exodus - Departure
Vayikra - And He called                         Leviticus – Of the Levites
B’midbar - In the wilderness                   Numbers - Quantities
D’varim - Words                                     Deuteronomy – Second Law
The names begin with a connection to ours. Progressing from the start of humans to the line of Shem, and then to Avraham, Breishit is certainly our origin story. However, the similarity of meaning ends there. Sefer Shemot tells the story of the exodus from Egypt, but it is so much more. It is the story of our growth from family to tribes to a nation. These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt. We came down few in number, and there we became a nation, great and mighty. The book continues well past the actual departure. Without a doubt it is a dramatic moment, but not the only one. When we focus on the departure, we forget revelation at Sinai and our connection to Torah and the Mitzvot. Vayikra is filled with laws and rituals for the Levi’im and Kohanim. Then again we are to be a kingdom of priests. This knowledge is not meant for an elite few. Sefer B’midbar speaks of time and place. It is not just a book of censuses. We are searching for a way out of the wilderness, both physically and spiritually. Finally, D’varim. Actually named Eileh HaD’varim, These Are the Words,” it is a repetition of the laws through Moshe’s farewell speeches. It is a book of reminders, a summation. The English can also be interpreted this way, coming from the translation of Greek Jews, Deuteronomion. However, in light of the Christian use of the term, it can also provide an open door. If there can be a second law, why not a new law?
Words, and especially names, have power. Our tradition teaches that each person is given three names: one his parents give, one that his friends call him, and one that he acquires. Each name speaks to who we are and the relationships we share. The same is true for the Torah. The names we use describe and inform our relationship to it and to Jewish life.

Parashat Vayechi- Repent One Day Before You Die

Vayik’r’vu y’mei-Yisrael lamut vayikra livno l’Yoseif…
Vayik’r’vu y’mei-David lamut va’y’tzav et-Shlomo b’no…
And the days of Israel drew close to die, and he called his son Joseph… (Breishit 47:29)
And the days of David drew close to die, and he commanded Shlomo his son… (I Kings 2:1)
Rabbi Eliezer would say, “…. Repent one day before your death.” (Pirkei Avot 2:10) His disciples would ask, “How does a man know on which day he will die?” Rabbi Eliezer said to them, “All the more reason he should repent today, lest he die tomorrow.” This is the meaning of Solomon’s words in Kohelet 9:8, “At all times your clothes should be white, and oil should not lack from your head.”
There is a time in every person’s life when s/he becomes aware of his/her mortality. It is a time to be serious, but also a time to live life to the fullest. It is a time to connect and reconnect with family and loved ones. Recently, Forbes Magazine published an article on the 25 Biggest Regrets in Life.  Among them:
  1. Working too much at the expense of family and friendships
  2. Not teaching my children more things/ Spending more time with my family
  3. Not standing up to bullies, in school and in life
  4. Not staying in touch with friends
  5. Not turning off the phone/ not leaving the phone at home
  6. Worrying too much about what others thought/Not having enough confidence
  7. Living the life others expected me to, instead of the life I wanted
  8. Not being happier/ taking life too seriously
  9. Carrying a grudge/feud with a friend or family member
  10. Failure to tell your parents/mentors how much you appreciate them
  11. Holding on to youth too long and not becoming an adult
Kohelet’s words ring true in the Forbes article. If we live each day as if we are wearing the white of Yom Kippur, but also cherishing each day and those around us, we will have less to regret, no matter when that day should draw near. Jacob and David are lucky in their lives. They are given the realization that their days are drawing to a close. They are able to spend time and speak with those closest to them.
Take the time. It’s a message for all of us. 

Parashat Vayigash- Desert Revelations

Yitzhak. Vayomer Ehlohim l’Yisrael b’mar’ot halaila vayomer Yaakov Yaakov vayomer hineini. Vayomer Anokhi haEl ehlohei avikha al tira meirda Mitzraimah ki l’goi gadol asimkha sham.
And Israel journeyed with all that was his, and he came to Beer Sheva and offered sacrifices to God, the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Yaakov, Yaakov” and he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “I am the God of your father; do not fear going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.”
On his journey back to Joseph, Jacob travels by way of Beer Sheva. It is a logical stop on the way to Egypt from Hebron, a last stop before entering the desert. It was a place of peace between Avraham and Avimelekh. Beer Sheva is a natural oasis, the site of seven wells dug by Isaac (of which three or four have been identified). It is the place Jacob left just prior to his famous dream and his full acceptance of the covenant with God.  It would later be a site of refuge for Elijah, and one of the cities rebuilt by the Jews after the return from Babylon. Beer Sheva marked the southern tip of biblical Israel.
In modern times Beer Sheva continued to inspire. A growing city, Beer Sheva is home to Ben Gurion University, founded with the Ben Gurion’s ideal of making the desert bloom. David Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” Beer Sheva is a place from which miracles emerge. There is a calming spirituality there, on the edge of the desert. Avraham found it. Isaac knew it. Yaakov returned to it.  And Ben Gurion envisioned it the seed of a modern miracle.

Parashat Miketz- Hanukah as a Zionist Act

Roni v’simchi bat Tziyon ki hi’n’ni-va v’shachanti b’tokheikh n’um A’donai.
Sing and be joyful, daughter of Zion, for I come, and I will dwell amidst you, said A’donai. (Zekhariah 2:14)
The holiday of Hanukah celebrates the military victory of Israel, led by the Maccabees, over the invading power of the Assyrians. A miraculous feat in itself, it is made more miraculous by the story of the single flask of pure oil lasting eight days.
In modern times, the celebration of Hanukah has shifted from this nationalistic focus to one celebrating religious freedom. The Maccabees fought for our right to practice Judaism as we wished, and not to assimilate.
Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, taught that we need to return to our nationalistic roots. According to Rabbi Hartman (as shared with me by Rabbi Lionel Moses of Shaare Zion Congregation, Montreal) the celebration of Hanukah is a Zionist statement. It is a public affirmation of our right as a nation to exist, and for Jews to live and practice on the world stage. After all, it is a celebration of a military victory, one which solidified our right to national independence. We place our hanukiyot in our windows, proclaiming this victory, and therefore this right, to the world.
In the words of Mi Yimalel, “Uvyameinu kol am Yisrael, yitached yakum vayigael; but now all Israel must as one arise, redeem itself through deed and sacrifice.” With our celebration of Hanukah, let’s focus, with song and celebration, our hearts, minds, and actions towards Israel, our people and our land.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why American Thanksgiving is Better Than Canadian Thanksgiving

In Canada few Jews celebrate Thanksgiving.  It comes the the second Monday in October.  Proclaimed January 31, 1957, "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."  I believe that, for Jews, it comes too soon after the fall Hagim.  After two days of Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur pre and post-fast meals, two days of Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, plus various Shabbatot, the last thing everyone needs or wants is another large family meal.  However, as Americans, Thanksgiving is deeply embedded in us.  And therefore, as American Canadian residents, we celebrate both Canadian and American Thanksgiving.  As one who celebrates both, I can honestly say that Canadian Thanksgiving cannot compete with American Thanksgiving.  Here's why:

1. Timing

Canadian Thanksgiving's timing is off.  I know the harvest is earlier in Canada, but the second Monday in October is simply too soon.  We've just gotten past Labour Day.  Kids have finally settled back into school routines.  They are also, of course, looking towards Halloween.  Thanksgiving passes in a flash between back to school and Halloween, almost without a second thought.

American Thanksgiving comes in late November.  Observed throughout the early years of the nation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" to be November 26, 1863.  President Lincoln's successors followed his example, declaring the final Thursday (usually) of November as Thanksgiving.  In 1941, the US Congress passed a joint resolution declaring the fourth Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving, which was signed by President Roosevelt.  By November it is not just harvest time, the harvest is in.  The work is completed.  The weather has started to turn, and it is the perfect time to stay at home, cosy and warm, with family and friends.

2. A Great Back Story

Although American Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated annually until 1863,  it connects its roots to "The First Thanksgiving," that being celebrated by 53 pilgrims at Plymouth Rock with 90 Native Americans and  for three days in 1621 (as reported in an account by Edward Winslow).  Other stories talk about Thanksgiving in the spring after surviving horrible winters.  There's a story of people surviving on just five kernels of corn a day.  You can also learn about the Native Americans, specifically Squanto and Massasoit, without whom the pilgrims would never have survived.  When we look at the hardships the founders of America had to endure, we realize we're pretty damn lucky.  This leads to great Thanksgiving pageants and stories, arts and crafts and costumes.

Canadian Thanksgiving has no story.  It just is.

3. Shared Observance

In The US everyone buys into Thanksgiving.  It's an opportunity, not only for families to celebrate, but for communities to come together.  Houses of worship across the country share services.  It is a day of respect and appreciation for our interfaith and multicultural history, from President Washington's inauguration to the present.  Even though we will be eating with friends and family, the day is surrounded by community.

Canadian Thanksgiving is just about the harvest (according to the proclamation), so it's just about the meal.  As long as you eat, who cares who is there.

4. Football & Parades

American Thanksgiving is a day of food, family, fidelity, and football!  Great games are played on Thanksgiving.  After you've eaten, you have an excuse to lie, bloated, on the couch and watch the game(s).  Also, while you're preparing, there's a great parade down NYC's 5th Avenue.  It's the best parade in the world!  The parade ends with the Santa Claus float, which signals the start of the Christmas season, providing a solid boundary for holiday advertising and decorations.  

Canada's Christmas season is supposed to begin with the Santa Claus Parade, but since there are multiple Santa parades, who's to know when it really starts.  It seems to start immediately after Halloween.

5. Thursday vs. Monday

Canadian Thanksgiving is on a Monday.  As the family meal lingers into the evening, we start to worry about the next day, a day of school and work.  You have to be conscious of getting home at a reasonable hour.  How can you be really thankful if you're worried about a presentation on Tuesday.

American Thanksgiving is on a Thursday.  People leave work early on Wednesday to get a head start. It's a 2 1/2 day work week, followed by a 4 1/2 day weekend.  What more can you ask for?  You don't have to run out to put kids to bed.  There are no early meetings the next day.  There's nothing but another day off for which to be thankful.

6. Pardoned Turkeys 

Each year, since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the president of the US with 3 turkeys, one live, two dressed.  President Kennedy was the first to "pardon" his turkey, announcing he wasn't going to eat it.  President Reagan made it official when he pardoned his turkey in 1987.  President Bush Sr. continued with the tradition, making it a permanent annual tradition.  The pardoned turkey is sent to a petting zoo to be pampered for the rest of his/her life.  Need I say more? 

Clearly American Thanksgiving is the better of the two.  Still, as I said earlier, we celebrate both.  We use Canadian Thanksgiving as a day for being outside and enjoying the start of autumn.  It's usually one of the few warmish days left before dampness then cold set in.  We go pumpkin or apple picking, gathering produce to be used for our celebration in November.  Even now I have 3 pumpkins in my living room.  Last Thursday we shared the evening with American friends.  We ate turkey and stuffing, roasted beets and greens, brussel sprouts, apple pie (and due to Hanukah) sufganiyot (doughnuts).  We appreciated that we live in a good city with great friends.  We toasted the good fortune we do have and the future, where we hope to have many, many more days and reasons for which to give thanks, whether in October, November, or both.