June 24, 2022

June 24, 2022
A day that will live in infamy.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Even Children Get Older

We just returned yesterday from Montana where our daughter and son-in-law live with our grandmenagerie of 5 chickens, 4 cats, and 1 dog. I simply love being the "grandparent" to this brood. They are a delightful bunch, yes, even the chickens are sweet! The brooding ladies are Gladys, Ruth, Cuckoo, Daisy, and Tulip. The four sweet felines are Nati, Walter, Mabel, and Freja and the lone canine holding down the fort is a red-tick coonhound named Poppy. She is the best girl ever and the best friend a human could ever want. Here is what doctors do when they are not working and they have a best dog to curl up with:
This was on Erin's birthday which was Friday. She turned 33 this year and it was especially hard/poignant/nostalgia-inducing because she was born on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I kept saying things like, "Thirty-three years ago at this time I was eating a lot of food, then taking a brisk walk and then jumping up and down and stomping my feet." This was all of course in an attempt to bring on labor. I was technically due on Thanksgiving that year, 1989, as were several of my doctor's patients. He ended up delivering eleven babies that long weekend which was quite a few for our small community. It was also a full moon which any OB/GYN will tell you is crazier than the rest of the month. How have thirty-three years gone by and that large (9lb. 21") newborn is now an OB/GYN herself? It boggles my mind. I still think of myself as 16 like a scratched that just keeps returning to the same groove. Even though I am in my middle 50s and Matt is about to hit his late 50s and my body certainly feels its age, my mind can't wrap itself around this thrity-three year old doctor who is my daughter sometimes. No wonder Fiddler on the Roof is such a perrenial hit. The audiences must be populated by parental units who shed silent tears as they mouth the words to Sunrise/Sunset. I feel their pain. My darling daughter finding her way into womanhood is not the only change to come in this Thanksgiving weekend. This was the first time that I had nothing to do with making the food since I was a kid myself. My son-in-law, Adam spent the whole day in the kitchen prepping and cooking and baking us an amazing feast. Life has moved on while I was not paying attention. I am not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I feel a stuffed tofurky full of gratitude for what he did. It was stunning! I should have taken a picture of the table but I was too busy salivating and trying to to get it on the food. On the other hand, I wonder if I have become obsolete in some sense. Am I just going to be Grammy sitting in the corner whom everyone is vaguely sweet to but doesn't pay much attention to? Something to look forward to? Here is Adam in their kitchen hard at work:
I was not completely a bump on a log. I was doing my own magic. You can see Walter here modeling the use of the cats' new Chickie Kitty cozy den that I made them while I was there. I started it at home but made most of it at their house. I saw the pattern for it and thought it would be perfect for the chicken lovers with four cats.
Here is the youngest and newest addition to their brood, Freja. Last Thanksgiving, she was a teensy adorable thing who fit in the palm of your hand. Now she has grown to her full size and is still not a very big cat. She does not even have a full mew; it is just an incredibly cute little squeak.
It makes sense that Erin would fill her house with animals as we have always had animals and she had them growing up. We never had chickens, though, just dogs and cats and the occasional hamster and bunny. I always thought she would be a vet but instead she brings humans into this world and takes care of women and girls. I am so proud of the woman she has become and the loving, furry, feathered home she has made with her husband. She amazes me.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Pre-Pesach Fun in Kindergarten

Pesach Memories

We have been working on making our own haggadot in Kindergarten using a template from My Haggadah: Made it Myself. So far this has been a fun experience with my students. I can definitely recommend this for family and school fun. The format reminds me very much of the Anti-Coloring book series that my daughter used to do when she was young in the 1990s. Instead of giving you something to color in, you are given an imaginative prompt that invites you to create something all your own. So much better! We are also learning to sing Echad Mi Yodea? b'ivrit which is pretty exciting when you are five or six. It is a good song to learn in Hebrew since there is so much repetition.

The Pesach Seder is the experiential curriculum par excellence. The Rabbis understood that the Seder was not just a commemoration of sorts but was also a yearly teaching tool. It is a chance to bring our young and new learners into our culture and to reinvigorate all of our learners into the Jewish experience. They made the Seder interactive and fun as well as moving and meaningful. All things which engage us and invite us to asks questions, to debate, to argue, to think deeply, to laugh, and to be a part of a community.

We all have our favorite parts of the Seder. Mine are koreich, making the Hillel sandwich. It is so delicious to taste the contrast of maror, charoset, and matzah, the bitter, sweet, and plain all rolling around on my tongue. My second favorite part is the singing. It is hard to pick but I think it would be Adir Hu, followed by Echad Mi Yodea, and then Hallel.

What are your favorite parts of the Seder? Why? What are some of your best or funniest memories?

My daughter was on call during Residency one year and she was trying to explain the Pesach Seder to her colleagues so she downloaded a Seder plate off the internet added a little matzah and an orange (because she is a good feminist!) and voila. This is the sort of thing that happens to doctors at 3:00 am when they are not delivering babies, that is.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

My Jewish Tent is Big Enough for You. Why Do You Feel so Threatened By Me?

I was appalled, as I often am, after reading the latest email newsletter from Women of the Wall. Not only was there yelling, heckling, and spitting involved, as there usually is, while they tried to celebrate Rosh Hodesh but the Ultra-Orthodox have reached a new low by grabbing the WOW siddurim and tearing them up and throwing them on the ground! These are the same people who I am sure would lovingly pick up and kiss their own siddurim if one happened to fall to the ground. They seem to mostly be teenagers egged on by adults to commit these atrocities in the name of their god or their rabbi or who knows what. I just can't get my head around the fact that this is allowed to happen and even encouraged by many. 

This type of behavior is so antithetical to Judaism and the Torah whose overriding message is one of love of other Jews, of one's neighbor, of the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. What has happened to kol yisrael aravim zeh bazeh? The people that did this must not care about this deeply rooted Jewish value or they must have some very twisted way of interpreting it. We cannot continue to let this reprehensible behavior go on! 

I understand that there are very complex political issues in Israel when it comes to the power of the Rabbanut and especially when we are talking about what happens at the Kotel but continuing to allow the masses of secular and liberal religious Jews to be held captive to an increasingly fanatical and dangerous Ultra-Orthodox minority is ridiculous. It is time for some serious tohahah with consequences that are finally meaningful and helpful for the rest of Israel and the Jews.

WOW is very brave to continue to show up and take this abuse month after month, hag after hag. They are an amazing example to us all of what it means to have grit but we have got to support them and others like them who insist on kol yisrael aravim zeh bazeh and just plain human decency and treating people b'tzelem elohim.

As a professor who teaches, among other things, Jewish history, I can say with authority that Judaism has never been monolithic, completely normative, or otherwise represented by only one group nor will it ever be. So why is this shocking and disgusting behavior allowed to happen in our beloved country? I am ashamed that people who call themselves Jews behave this way. When are we going to stop saying that's just the Ultra-Orthodox, ignore them?!? WOW does not have that luxury as they try to worship and celebrate together as Jewish women at a sacred site that is for ALL Jews if they choose to visit.

I will now descend from my soapbox but, seriously, support WOW in what they do because it is important work. It is about much more than just free and equal access to the Kotel. It is about dignity, b'tzelem elohim, loving one another and our myriad differences. Values that I hope we can all get behind and practice!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Whiskers on Kittens

My sweet boy kitty Fergus is stuck in the wall of my daughter’s house. Let me explain. Right now I am sitting in the upstairs attic bedroom with the doggos while my daughter’s fiancĂ©, my daughter, and my husband all work on getting one little cat out of the wall. How did he get there you might be curious to know? Because cats do not usually find themselves inside walls. 

I am a little ahead of myself. We are here at my daughter’s house for a month while we wait to close on our new condo in Denver. When the cats and dogs arrived after a three day trip, things were a little meshuggenah to say the least. Fergus is normally a social, very loving fella but he can be a little skittish in new situations unlike our other cat, Freckle, who just rolls with the punches. No sooner was Fergus let out of his crate than he ran down to the basement of their house where part of it is finished and part of it is rough and partially finished. The rough part is used as a workshop where my soon to be son-in-law builds things and where the cats gets fed away from the curious and ever hungry dog. You, if you are an thirteen pound tabby cat on a mission to hide from your world that has just been turned upside down, can find a great place to hide in the ceiling. This is exactly what Fergus did. We found him and decided to leave him alone because he seemed okay and there was food and water available and a litter box nearby. Each of us would go downstairs and check on him several times a day. This went on for four days with no sign of Fergus emerging permanently. He would only come out if you stood there and called his name and brought him a can of just opened wet food.

Well  . . . someone went to check on him tonight and he was mewing in fear like he was stuck. We finally figured out that he was in the wall between the finished and partially finished part of the basement. And that brings us to the beginning line of my post. Really, I am freaking out as much as everyone else is but I have been asked to stay with the dogs while they are in their crates out of the way of all the craziness. So what did I decide to do to alleviate the freaking out feeling? Post to my blog, of course!

Update:  The only way to get Fergus out of the wall was to remove the boards of the wall.  Yes, my soon to be son-in-law and big-time cat lover started taking his house apart to get my poor, scared kitty out of his wall! Skip to the end of the whole thing, which I had to hear about later, and Fergus is being cuddled by my husband on the sofa in the family room. Everyone is near tears from the trauma that this one little fella has caused. I can't begin to imagine how traumatic it was for my sweet Fergus! My STBSIL brought up this clip on the telly because it was just so appropriate and because we all needed a laugh.

Fergus is now ensconced in the art room complete with a lovely cat tree with a hidey hole and a window seat. His own litter box and tasty wet food and water. My husband has been sleeping on the futon with him while I sleep upstairs in the bed with dogs. 

Moving is stressful already but it goes to 11 with the addition of furry family members. Borukh Hashem that we do not have any youngsters still at home! I will be glad when I can go back to just being a wondering Jew and not also a wandering Jew.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Bayit is Where the Heart is 

As I write this I am staring at the rocky mountains that surround Salt Lake City. I am in the Delta Sky Club in the airport awaiting my flight to Kalispell and my daughter's house. I left my mostly empty house today for the penultimate time and it has me thinking about the meaning of bayit. I have loved living in my house for the past five and half years. It is a wonderful house full of rooms and space and even a secret passageway! It has two sets of stairs, two sinks in the master bathroom, and two spaces for our cars in the garage. I like the number two. My husband and I make the number two. I have two dogs and two cats, two coffee makers, and two suitcases. I have one child but she is now part of a pair so I say I have two kids when I talk about them because I have gained a son.

It is unsettling leaving your home and seeing your home empty and all of your stuff being packed into U-haul pods and carted away. When will I see that stuff again? I will be homeless for at least a month while my home sells and we wait to close on our new home. Fortunately, our daughter and her fiance have a great home that they are willing to share with the old parental units for a month. So we will not be truly homeless. Her home during this time will be filled with furry children--three dogs and five cats, plus four chickens in the backyard coop. I am excited to learn about caring for chickens. I like to joke that I have grandchickens! Their names are Ruth, Dolly, Gladys, and Cuckoo.

My new home will be beautiful too, if smaller. But smaller is a good thing. We didn't really need all that space just for two people, two dogs, and two cats. We have gone Marie Kondo crazy on all of our stuff. It is cathartic to purge and to realize that you really do not need so much stuff. What is important to you really comes to the surface when you are forced to choose what to take and what will be donated or sold or given away to friends. I have culled and culled my books but I still have so many! And I have been buying most of my fiction on Kindle and reserving paper purchases for the Talmud that I am slowly but surely collecting and other Jewish books, education books, some non-fiction, etc.

There are a few key ingredients, IMHO, that make up a bayit and, for the most part, the physical space isn't on this list. 

  • dein mishpocha
  • doggos
  • kitties
  • books, books, books
  • a few comfortable chairs (for reading, of course!)
  • fabric and yarn, a sewing machine, crochet hooks and knitting needles
  • whatever your zen requires (see above)
  • a kitchen with a good size table to gather the aforementioned mishpocha around
What are your key ingredients to make a bayit?

Friday, May 28, 2021

I am about to become the wandering Jew as opposed to the wondering Jew as I move from one location to another with a pit stop in between. Things are in flux in a big way right now but strangely I am more stable than I have been in a long time. I haven't been this happy since I don't know when. I am about to become homeless for a while, although I will be living in a lovely home that is not mine while I wait for my home to become available. Ah, the vagaries of modern day real estate and moving. If you had asked me when I was young where I thought I would be at the age of 52, this is not it. However, hineni and I am filled with wonder. 

I am dealing with a somewhat major family emergency/crisis while trying to pack and move and downsize a large household into a smaller one. I am filled with wonder at the woman who is my daughter who has come to the rescue, so to speak, and has come up with a brilliant plan to deal with the family emergency all while keeping an amazingly cool head. That is an OB/GYN for you. Medical school and Residency may have been a total bitch but apparently they really teach you how to deal with a crisis with a cool head. She is an amazing mentsch. I like to think that I had a little bit to do with that but she is also just her own person. She put in the work to make her life happen the way it did. I couldn't kvell more if I tried. There is nothing better than the relationship you have with your grown children, I think. It is so different than the one you had when they lived with you or even when they were in college. When they become gainfully employed and have their own family it is like they have arrived at a new level of personhood. You know when you turn to your daughter for a listening ear and a helping hand you have arrived as a parent. The best part is when she responds with a loving and generous heart that also happens to have a lot of good practical advice.

One thing that makes me so happy about this move is that I will be able to join a Jewish community again. I practice my own form of shomer Shabbes but recently I broke with that and joined the livestream of the the shul that we plan to join in our new home. I had the overwhelming sensation of wanting to jump through the screen of my computer to join in the Shabbat service. I was singing and chanting along with Shacharit and my heart leapt. It has been more than fourteen months since I have led the davening of Shacharit or any davening for that matter. My neshama is starved for any kind of Jewish spiritual connection and I was hearing familiar niggunim and I almost could not bear it. I wanted to be there in person so badly. I was delighted to see that there were people in the congregation, masked and socially distanced, but still there together. My heart was so full of longing. I was overcome by my reaction to just what I saw on the screen. I have been an avoider of Zoom shul. I don't do iPhone, iPad, or computer on Shabbes and anyway I hate services online. I need be with my fellow congregants in person as a kehillah k'doshah. I read the t'shuvah that the RA wrote but I still do not find it acceptable for me to use my small electronic devices on Shabbes to watch shul live streamed or Zoomed. This affected me so strongly, I can't imagine how it will be to attend in person for the first time since the beginning of March 2020.

Despite being a rabid introvert, I need a happy and strong Jewish community to thrive. I think I will have that in my new home.

Borukh Hashem!

Even Children Get Older

We just returned yesterday from Montana where our daughter and son-in-law live with our grandmenagerie of 5 chickens, 4 cats, and 1 dog. I s...