יום שישי, 7 באוקטובר 2016

The Mad (Black) Hatter

I realized tonite that I have a very long history with the mad black hatters.

My first encounter was in 7th grade.  We were living in Los Angeles and I developed a huge crush on my rebbe, the first black hatter.  He wasn’t mad, or at least (thank GD) he didn’t do anything mad.  If anything he did a lot of good.  He introduced me to my first friend, his cousins, in Chicago, when my parents made the very traumatic announcement that we were moving back there.

Then there was the mad black hatter when I was in high school.  I must say he is probably my first true love and very first broken heart.  He dumped me in a “Dear John” letter. The “Dear John” letter I received while back in LA working at a day camp with my former friends.  That same summer, or maybe the next one, I met my cousins friend: the soon to be mad black hatter.  He dumped me after his new found rabbi told him he shouldn’t talk to me even though I was the reason he got involved with the religious movement in the first place. 

Then my first boyfriend, while studying a pretty religious seminary in Jerusalem.  He, the first boyfriend told me he’d never live in the US and he would never be religious, I actually dumped him. But one year later, while home for Rosh Hashana I got a letter…no no no, NOT a dear John letter.  No, this was a “you are the reason my life has changed for the best” letter. My Israel living non US living ex bf was now studying in a very happy place in the Old City.  And thanks to me he found religion….and his soon to be American born Chasidic originated wife….. Need I mention that he lived for a spell (several years) in the US?!
This mad black hatter literally wears a black hat a black (by now white?) beard, has grandchildren, and still some 25 years later, is in touch with me.
As you see, my history with them is not made of happy endings…
SO, here it is, the eve of Yom Kippur and I am still thinking about the man I wrote about in my last post.  Yup! You guessed it! ANOTHER mad black hatter. 
Why do I keep going back to them? Especially when, those who know me in real life know I don’t look like them…but I do talk like them, sometimes and I definitely do believe like them in some ways.  My friend Sarah has said over the years” You can take the girl out of the Michlala but you can’t take the Michlala out of the girl”.  That is to say, I grew up there in that place in my “formative years”.  It had a huge impact on my life and my family’s life.  I was very happy for a very long time in that world.  I never intended to leave it for good.  But it is not easy dancing at two weddings at once and I really am a better fit to the life and community I am in.  But the mad black hatter world still pulls at me.
At synagogue on Friday nite, the rabbi spoke about Yom Kippur and the different ways to look at repentawww.andbabymakes2.comnce.  He essentially said he doesn’t look at it like that but rather, in another interpretation as the Ultimate Day of Love: we go to the mikva, wear white, fast, and “walk down the aisle”.  These are all symbols of a wedding, the ultimate day of love. We are trying to cleave to our Maker and we want Him to cleave to us.  But, all you therapists out there, in order to have a healthy relationship we need to know who we are.  Only when we know who we are can we expect to have a healthier relationship, so too, in the rabbi’s speech with God.
So I say, on this Eve of Yom Kippur.  I need to know who I am: I am a modern woman who lives in a very hot climate so I dress for it. Who also only wears skirts, who doesn’t drive on Shabat or fast on 9Av. I believe with all my being in Gd, in the Torah, in the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.  I believe that my sleeves don’t define me but I love that my girls only wear skirts.  I love that I daven in an egalitarian minyan but have no need for it nor do I participate in it actively.
I believe that I can fall in love with a mad black hatter even though I don’t want to live that life…completely.  I believe that many have fallen in love with me but not enough to take a non-cookie cutter woman as their wife.
So I stand before God knowing who I am believing He knows who I am and that with His help I will find the one who I know and accept and who knows and accepts me.

Wishing you all a gut gbencht yor a shana tova and a happy healthy new year.

יום ראשון, 3 ביולי 2016

The Confused (Wo)Man

The Confused (Wo)Man

I had a very brief, I don’t know what to call it, with someone.  It was over before it started.  It is like a million other moments I have had with other men. Except…this one is different.
Something about me attracts them to me.  The Confused Man.  He was either born that way, became that way, or is post trauma: dead wife or ex-wife at this stage of my life, but earlier, it was much less defined.  At twenty, and then thirty, and then again at forty, most of the confused men who entered my life hadn’t yet married. 
I have a history with them.  I really thought after my last two plus year Confused Man that I had finally rid myself…but no… apparently they find me, like birds migrating or bees to honey. 
The other part of My Confused Men is that they confuse my extra sturdy door with a revolving door.  They think that even though they’ve stomped on my heart it is perfectly okay to come back for round two or three.
Some don’t come back for more but stay in touch.  My first ex-boyfriend, who became orthodox because of me and is now chareidi, contacts me regularly. Thirty five years later. He is a grandfather several times over.  He isn’t the only one but certainly the longest.
Back to the latest Confused Man: He and I didn’t understand each other.  He made assumptions about me based on how I look, speak, and dress.  I too made those assumptions about him. It turns out we were both wrong.  BUT, it only lasted a minute.  He tried. I tried.  I set a boundary, a hard limit, not to be crossed.  He didn’t like my terms. I didn’t like what he was offering.  I saved myself, my self -respect and protected my heart from being broken.  I also saved thousands on the shrink bill.
The good news all the thousands I have already spent have gone to good use.  The bad news, here I am, still alone, lonely and looking for you…Are you there?! Will we ever meet?

The Confused (Wo)Man

The Confused (Wo)Man

I had a very brief, I don’t know what to call it, with someone.  It was over before it started.  It is like a million other moments I have had with other men. Except…this one is different.
Something about me attracts them to me.  The Confused Man.  He was either born that way, became that way, or is post trauma: dead wife or ex-wife at this stage of my life, but earlier, it was much less defined.  At twenty, and then thirty, and then again at forty, most of the confused men who entered my life hadn’t yet married. 
I have a history with them.  I really thought after my last two plus year Confused Man that I had finally rid myself…but no… apparently they find me, like birds migrating or bees to honey. 
The other part of My Confused Men is that they confuse my extra sturdy door with a revolving door.  They think that even though they’ve stomped on my heart it is perfectly okay to come back for round two or three.
Some don’t come back for more but stay in touch.  My first ex-boyfriend, who became orthodox because of me and is now chareidi, contacts me regularly. Thirty five years later. He is a grandfather several times over.  He isn’t the only one but certainly the longest.
Back to the latest Confused Man: He and I didn’t understand each other.  He made assumptions about me based on how I look, speak, and dress.  I too made those assumptions about him. It turns out we were both wrong.  BUT, it only lasted a minute.  He tried. I tried.  I set a boundary, a hard limit, not to be crossed.  He didn’t like my terms. I didn’t like what he was offering.  I saved myself, my self -respect and protected my heart from being broken.  I also saved thousands on the shrink bill.
The good news all the thousands I have already spent have gone to good use.  The bad news, here I am, still alone, lonely and looking for you…Are you there?! Will we ever meet?

יום רביעי, 2 במרץ 2016

Petty Pity

There was a time which lasted pretty much from the time I was about five until, well, now, where I loved to buy things. Not anything, but fancy expensive designer things.  My love of all things fancy and expensive started under the care and tutelage of my Gramma Jeanne and my favorite and much admired Auntie Susie. 
Most children, then and now, would climb on jungle gyms in the park or slide down metal slides that would burn your tush on hot summer days… The parks always smelled like weird metal. I hated that smell. I hated looking up at the electric poles; I hated swinging,  sliding and climbing…
Gramma Jeanne would take me to the Saks children’s department. It smelled nice and fancy.  I could slide winding banister or run down the wide winding staircase with lavender carpet. I felt like That Girl or Doris Day singing Que sera sera (FUCK I’m old!!!).  It was magical and I felt like a princess.  I would run through the racks of beautiful clothes.
When I was older, I would go with my aunt to Neiman’s before EVERYONE shopped there. Or to the Style Shoppe in Highland Park a kiddie boutique… Again this is before everyone knew or could afford designer clothes. I felt cool grownup and like a princess.
When I was older still, in high school, my aunt would give me her Armani, Gucci and Sonia Rykiel hand me downs. 
When I was older than that, and started working and then married and living in New York, I was in the best fashion playground ever.  Then I also had enough income to afford at least some of it and usually on sale.  It made me feel good.
Petty I know. It is trivial, silly, truly unimportant and meaningless.  I remember buying my first Cadillac and my first Prada bag as momentous occasions. Silly, I know, trivial and possibly JAPy.
I learned before the girls were born that I had too much…You (Gila and Sarah G) are most likely rolling your eyes.  But I liked what I had.  Then I was packing to move back to Israel and I saw how much I had and how meaningless it was and is.
Fast forward March, 2016.  I haven’t bought designer anything for a long time. If anything  I am throwing it out;  its old, faded, frayed, and torn.  I feel like I’m throwing away pieces of myself.  I love my life, my job, my children my friends.  But sometimes, especially lately, I am struck by the Sisyphus like existence I have; laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, folding packing picking up straightening cooking, working and all over again. Constantly, every day, all day. With no break.
I was talking to a professor of mine yesterday and she made the “kiss of death” statement. “Well I’m like a single mother, my husband is always working.” REALLY!!!??? SERIOUSLY??!! Is he bringing a second salary? Is he a shoulder? A comfort? A bedmate? A partner? I don’t have any of that and I am really at my breaking point.

Two years ago, at this time of year my dad and I had a heart to heart.  He told me that I don’t take care of myself.  I didn’t feel that way.  The shopper, manicured girl, who prided herself on having spa-ed all over the country and in part of the world, didn’t take care of herself? The world traveler? Season ticket holder to the Bulls, White Sox, Kentuckey Derby? Lyric Opera? Chicago Symphony? Habima? How could he say that? I was very happy and content.  I still am but now I am ragged, exhausted and lonely..terribly lonely. But so busy and tired. 
I feel the same and yet terribly different.
It might be a phase.  It’s also the beginning of the end of the school year.  I don’t know. I need a change.

I thought today how wonderful a day at Bergdorf’s could be. Going shopping and then to the seventh floor restaurant and ordering an iceberg salad with blue cheese dressing, an order of fries. New clothes, a manicure/pedicure… and then I threw another load in the washing machine…

יום חמישי, 14 בינואר 2016

The Best and The Worst

My daughter told me last night that I don’t smile a lot. I was struck dumb because she is very funny and she and I laugh and giggle together a lot. But as I reflected, I understood that we each have different concepts of ‘a lot”. Because while we do giggle and laugh, I also direct, yell, get annoyed, and generally rush around telling them to hurry, there’s no time we need to go and you need to….. Whatever” it”
 is at the current moment.  The laughter, while there, is generally reserved for those wonderful fifteen minutes of quiet in the morning before all the rushing and hurrying begins.
So as the mom, I need to get them moving and out the door. Sometimes I succeed, at which point I breathe a deep sigh of relief and can go back to being “fun and laughing mom” and other times I don’t either due to my own exhaustion and don’t give a fuck attitude or theirs, in which case the “nasty bitchy mom” is in full force. 
But why is it that these people who are the best of me often times get the worst of me?
This is rhetorical of course. I get why. But while I understand it, I hate it. I hate that I get annoyed with them or yell at them. I hate it equally when I have to ask seventeen thousand times the same thing and get ignored. I fully comprehend the correlation between the two events. But I strive to be better.  I am not sure how to do this.  I apologize to them but I feel even they know it’s empty to the extent that it will happen again.
Bad habits are hard to break.  Bad habits are harder to break when we’re under extreme pressure.  I try. This blog has become my confessional. I am not sure my kids will see it that way… I certainly never saw it that way with my mom. I expected perfection. Most often I received it. I am pretty sure my kids do not think they get perfection or anywhere close to it.
As lame as this cliché is, I think when they’re grown up and have kids they will get it. But that’s nonsense. I want them to remember their childhood and their mom as fun but strict a friend and a confidant but the leader of the pack, in control and wise. I want to be someone who smiles and laughs and can get everyone out the door on time with all their books, bags, lunches, coats and in their seats by 8:00. I want my kids to have good memories.
I don’t want to just try my best I want to give my best to the best of me.


יום שני, 21 בספטמבר 2015

The Day of Awe

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So it is here. Tomorrow. The day of days. The Big One. The marathon of fasts.
Twenty five hours of fasting, praying, klopping, and if the weather forecast is accurate, sweating. At least to and from shul.
Yom kippur is one of my favorite days of the year. I know, it is weird, but I love it. While I’m not a fan of the bike fest it has become, at least here in tel aviv, I am a huge fan of the sanctity, the fasting, praying and klopping.  I also love that even the non- fasters, prayers and kloppers, at least here, still respect and at least to some extent appreciate the unique quality of the day.  The number one pictures on facebook after yom kippur are always of the שyalon or the Begin Highway being photographed empty.  After all these years and ymei kippur in Israel, I still tingle when I walk to shul for kol nidre and see so many people in white, the streets empty and the stillness that ensues. Even with the bikers there is a stillness and awesome quality to the day.
I even love the pre yom kippur warm ups and drills; Those who abstain completely from caffeine in the days leading up to the fast. Those who partially abstain or don’t at all.  It is a true test of stamina and belief that so many of us fast. Today, while chatting with a colleague, we were discussing the pre YK drills.  How nervous the day makes us. In a split second I realized we were looking at it from a skewed perspective. In that split second I felt like the bride who is so wrapped up in the wedding that she forgets to realize that she needs to be a wife. ( men too, just a figure of speech). So many of us are so concerned with the preparation and surviving the fast that we don’t spend enough time thinking about the DAY itself and the MEANING.
Who will live and who will die? Do many of us stop and think about that? Do we all take it as a given that if we fast, pray and klop we’ll make it through. Or maybe we don’t even really need to do that at all.  Ive been told that I have a childish view of Gd; Maybe I do. Maybe there is no direct correlation between action and consequence. Maybe actions and what happens after said action have no correlation whatsoever.
I don’t know. Personally, I believe they do but who is to say I am right?

I do know that I am thinking about the meaning of YK to me, to my family and friends and to Klal Yisrael.  I am thinking about those that are still here and those that tragically aren’t here this year.  I am thinking about who I was last year and if I am exactly the same or hopefully changed in some small way. I am thinking about what I had hoped to accomplish in this last year where I succeeded and where I failed.
I am thanking Hashem for my blessings. For my parents, family and friends. For my amazing girls. For my health and theirs.  For the zchut to live in Eretz Yisrael and be part of the miracle. I am praying for the continued strength and willpower to become a better person or at least a more patient tolerant one.
So on this day before THE BIG YK 5776, while I am nervous about fasting and the heat and being around my kids eating I am also trying to keep the big picture in mind; the why we do it and what we hope to gain.
Wishing each and every one of you a gmar chatima tova, an easy fast, and most importantly a meaningful yom kippur.
xo



יום שישי, 13 במרץ 2015

The Barrier








I remember sitting at my grandfather’s shiva with my mom and aunt, sometime in 1995, surrounded by friends and loved ones. Suddenly, I had a horrible thought. It occurred to me, that the barrier had been diminished.  I had never thought about it until that moment, sitting on my parents’ living room couch, looking at my mom on her low chair and my aunt being comforted by others that there even was a barrier. You know what I’m talking about?  That BARRIER, the one that separates you and protects you from the END.
 As kids we are usually blessed with a thick barrier of four grandparents and two parents. As we get older though, the barrier weakens.  Sitting on my mother’s taupe sofa that day, I suddenly realized that not only did it exist but that in that moment of my grandfather’s passing it had been weakened.  It was a terrifying thought.
Many of you that know me know that since my kids were born my parents come every year for around 5 months.  My friends (and my mom) have told me I don’t appreciate it enough. They say I take it for granted.  That isn’t true.  I have appreciated it and them and the older I get the more I appreciate them and realize how blessed I have been.
My mom usually comes a little before purim and is joined by my dad a week or so before pesach. They usually stay through yom haatzmaut.  The routine, in the last five years that has developed is that my mother tells everyone what to do and we do it.  My dad goes to the shuk daily, I go to the supermarket and she organizes it all. That is not to say I am incapable or unwilling to do it myself.  I mean I am a pretty independent person and manage quite well on my own, but it is nice to have someone in charge other than me.  She makes the food, rearranges the cabinets and drawers and offers Helpful Heloise tips.
Every year my dad and I rent a car and drive to Bnei Brak for a day of bonding in the non kitniyot grocery store.  Arranging for the seder  also is laden with routines; my mom polishes the silver, I set the table and make the charoset; my pre-pesach chores since childhood.
This year my parents are not coming. I know my mom is going to say I shouldn’t write this post because it makes her feel bad but I can’t help it. I am devastated Mommy.  I am so afraid you will never be here again and that I will have to do it alone.  At the same time, I think, having her here is a pain in the ass. We annoy each other, get on each other’s nerves and if she tells me one more time her “suggestion” I might scream. Yet still, I want her here. For all the selfish reasons.  I want her here for me, and for the kids, and because even though I love my friends and we’ve spent all these holidays together for years, it’s not quite the same as your biological family.
I have been thinking lately about my aunts and uncles.  The next row of the barrier.  I spoke to my aunt today and while talking about the family I just kept thinking back to all those Sunday dinners with all of us; my family and hers, our grandparents and their siblings and I  realized that, once the barrier breaks down again, who will I share those memories with?  My sister was too little too remember.  My cousins might not either, they were pretty small themselves.  These memories, which I never really think about but all of a sudden seem hugely important to me.
I look at myself in the mirror and lately I do NOT see a girl, or a young woman .  I see older; much much older.  I think of how young people look at me and realize they think I’m old.  I’m part of a different demographic.  I keep thinking that in 25 years I will be the same age as my mom and that my girls will only be thirty.  Isn’t that too young to have such an old mom?  Then, of course, I think about the (additional) disservice I’ve done them.
I don’t have some witty or pithy ending. I’m just really sad.  The circle of life is NOT always pleasant or happy.  I’m trying to take it one day at a time but most days I wind up crying.  For what was, for what isn’t and for what I hope will not happen for a very long time.