On Not Fearing Those Who Are Different Than You

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{Did you know that I’m doing a daily video series for the month of Elul?  Very, very short videos (less than two minutes long).  You can subscribe to my YouTube channel, or see them on my blog’s Facebook page (if Facebook decides to reveal them to you), or on Twitter, or contact me to be added to the email list.}  

The other week at the zoo I had an experience which gave me pause.  Due to a ill-timed discovery of a flat stroller tire (like, I discovered it after arriving at the zoo and packing all our stuff into said stroller), I found myself shlepping up to the front entrance, two massive bags of supplies on my shoulder, a squirmy two-year-old in my arms, and two excited little boys hovering around my maxi skirt.  About two feet beside and slightly behind me was a grandmother (I assume) with two granddaughters (also assumed).  Facing both of us, about five away, was a woman approximately my age.

This woman stood before us, looking first at me, then at the presumed grandmother.  After a quick deliberation, she approached the grandmother and said,

“Are you purchasing tickets for admission? I have this coupon for 10% off, and I totally forgot to use it!”

Thanks and pleasantries were exchanged before the coupon-donater turned and hurried back to where she came from, muttering something about leaving her children unattended.

It felt…weird.  I had the distinct impression that I had been assessed and then rejected for this coupon opportunity.  And all well within earshot, to boot.   Continue reading

New Video Series for Elul

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Well, it’s here!  Duhn duhn DUHN!  Chodesh Tov everyone, and welcome to Elul (well, technically it’s the last day of Av, but it’s still Rosh Chodesh).  This is a month of potential, of great possibility for growth, and a month where for many years, I’ve watched in dismay as the hustle and bustle of daily life has made it difficult to take advantage of this opportunity.

This year, I’m doing a series of short (very short, like under two minutes, because, well, my attention span is short, and in general, I think the attention span of the interwebs is short, too) videos with a quick Torah thought that will hopefully help elevate your month and mine as well.

I’m not going to post every video on this blog (that would just be too much), but you can follow my YouTube channel, or email me and I can send you the daily link.  I’ll also be posting it on my blog’s Facebook page (which sometimes won’t show up in your feed unless you do something along these lines – I know, annoying of Facebook to not show you things you want to see), and my Twitter account, so there’s lots of places to get it, if you’re interested.

Here’s the first episode of QTFE (Quick Thoughts for Elul):  Enjoy!  Let me know what you think!

Pushing the Boundaries

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The summer really is drawing to a close.  My Facebook feed is full of pictures of the first day of school, talk of purchasing supplies and the arrival of uniforms.  We successfully made it through Camp Mommy, took multiple road trips, added both a sandbox *and* a trampoline to our yard, and even found a carpool for the upcoming school year.

Amazing.

We just returned (like, nine hours ago) from a fabulous trip to Cleveland, where we spent a whole week enjoying my mother-in-law, aunt-in-law, brother-in-law and all the cousins.  It was a last-hurrah-of-the-summer kind of trip, where I threw all caution to the wind (okay, not all caution, but I did get a little brave) and scheduled the trip even though my husband would not be able to come until Shabbos.  

all by yourself?  Are you insane?

All by yourself? Are you insane?

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Why We Don’t Do What We Know Is Good For Us

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Our phone rang immediately after last Shabbos, and when I went to screen the call see who it was, I saw my mother’s cell phone number on the caller i.d.  But when I answered, it was my father on the line, which was unusual (I usually call him, and on their land line).  He told me that, shockingly, my mother was in the hospital (what?!), as she had had a gallstone which ended up in her pancreas and caused pancreatitis (yeah, I hadn’t ever heard of that before, but it’s a thing), and so she had been admitted to the hospital, and they were planning on keeping her until Tuesday.

Tuesday.  That was like, a five day stay.  That sounded serious to me.  And scary.  This is my mother.  Who is obviously supposed to be immortal and immune to all physical ailments.

Thank G-d, everything was okay.  My husband assured me that he’s seen plenty of pancreatitis which resolves very nicely (one of the perks of being married to a doctor, I guess.  They know stuff about things like pancreatitis).  My mother had her gallbladder out yesterday, and she’s recovering nicely, Thank G-d, may she continue to do so.

I was speaking with her yesterday evening, and she mentioned how much better she felt without her gallbladder, and how she realized now that she’d been feeling lousy for a little while, but just hadn’t realized it.  She had just gotten used to it.  And I had a flash of insight: Continue reading

My Kids Love These New Books From Artscroll

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It seems that for most of my life I’ve had my head in a book.  So it pleases me endlessly that my kids love to read.  My daughter, who’s two now, has recently come into her book-loving stage.  She will bring me a book, usually when I’ve finally found a minute to sit and have a cup of coffee or a quick lunch, and announce: “WEAD IT ME! WEAD BOOKY ME!”  When I attempt to tell her, “Sure, right after Mommy finishes her coffee” she will reply “WANT WAPPY (that’s “lap” in two-year-oldese)”.  WANT WAPPY READ IT ME!”  And then she jabs me with a corner of the book and tries to climb onto my lap until I give in, or more accurately, give up on being able to drink my coffee with any shred of enjoyment.

My boys are a little more understanding when I tell them that I will read them a book after I finish up whatever I’m doing.  Thankfully.  And if I start reading to one boy, usually the other one will sidle up and listen to whatever book we’re enjoying.  It’s really nice.

Anyways, a few months ago, I received two books to review from Artscroll:  Look What My Parents Give Me! and Imagine if….  Even though they’re now “old news” in our house, what with having been in the rotation for a few months already, my children will still bring them to me to read, and their eyes still light up at the parts they most enjoy.  They really enjoy them.  We just read them tonight during our bedtime routine.

Here are my general thoughts on the books:

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What to Read, Watch or Listen to on Tisha B’Av

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There was a time when I would mark the beginning of the Three Weeks by going to the library and checking out an armful of Holocaust books.  By the time Tisha B’Av came around, I would be appropriately sobered by my reading.  That was back when I was single, and had little demands on my time or organizational skills save for focusing on the Jewish calendar.

One mildly concerning thing I’ve noticed since becoming a mother is that many holidays come up upon with with a degree of surprise.  Well, the spiritual aspects come upon me with surprise.  I’ve gotten fairly efficient at taking care of the physical stuff – making sure I have enough food, planned a menu, have enough clean clothes, and I’ve even gotten to the point where I’ve gotten my sheitel to the macher in time.

However, planning for the spiritual part of a holiday, arguably the most important part, and certainly the only part I focused on back in my single days, always seems to get me.  And then, despite all the work I’ve done for the holiday, I used to end up feeling disconnected or worse, frustrated at myself, or even worse, apathetic about the lack of connection.

Now, having been doing this religious thing for about ten years, it’s not surprising that it takes a little more effort to connect.  Throw in the multitude of mundane yet crucial tasks needed to make a holiday happen and it’s even less surprising.  So I don’t really beat myself up anymore, and I don’t wish things were different, that my life was more like how it was when I was an idealistic seminary girl.

those were the days, kind of

those were the days, kind of

Nah.  My life is good.  I just have to put in a little more effort to stay in touch with the reasons behind the traditions that I keep. Continue reading

Why the Current Conflict in Israel is Old News

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For the past few weeks I haven’t spent much time online.  My Facebook feed has basically turned into, to take a turn of phrase from Pop Chassid, Israelbook.  I cannot go on there without being absolutely bombarded with articles, clips, memes, infographics, etc., about the current sad state of affairs.

Of course, I have the luxury of just not opening my computer.  My friends and fellow Jews in Israel do not have the luxury of avoiding bombardment.  From actual bombs.  That is their life right now (and, in some areas, has been their lives for the past eight years.  Wow, so glad we gave up Gaza for peace!  That land for peace thing really worked out well!).

Israelis may not be so interested in what the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or any of the various media sources have to say about this latest escalation.  They probably just want it to stop, and for all our soldiers to be able to come home.

But therein lies the rub.  What does it mean, to stop?   Continue reading