Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Surgery has been a hot topic of conversation in our house these days. Eli had his little ears fixed today. (No big deal, is upstairs napping comfortably) And just three days ago, we celebrated what I've decided to call "Happy Heart Day", the anniversary of Adam's open heart surgery.
My memories of last fall have been trickling in to me, showing me the difference that a year can make. I struggle between trying to let the memories go and giving myself permission to remember them and the emotions that come with them. After all, it isn't everyday that your husband has heart surgery. Sure, you might anticipate the possibility of such a serious health problem when you are approaching your 60's and have 30 plus years of marriage behind you. But you certainly can't be prepared for that when you barely have thirty years of living behind you.
I remember, last September, sitting at my breakfast bar, finsihing up whatever I was doing before I headed to pick Ethan up from preschool. The phone rang. It was Adam and I cheerfully said, "Hey!".
Immediately, I know something is wrong. Immediately, I understand that my life is about to take a seriously drastic turn. Isn't it amzaing how one phone call, one single, solitary syllable of "Hi" can change your world? I have now learned to become grateful for boring phone calls, where no bombs are dropped, where no alarm or panic exists in the voice on the other end, where only time is expended. I used to believe those types of phone calls were an annoying interruption, now I understand what a precious luxury they are.
In this moment of hearing a certain, palpable weariness in Adam's voice, I learn that there is an abnormality in one of his routine heart tests. He is scheduled for a heart catheritization the next week. My mind races, swiftly and surely remembering both of my grandparents' (hello! grandparents! old people! no offense) heart caths where each of them ended up just fine. So this will be fine. Adam has no real symptoms of a heart problem. He is young, not overweight, and appears to be healthy.
And then just as soon as I soothe myself with these thoughts, a tsunami of terror shoots through me and I immediately realize that cardiologists don't generally order routine heart caths. And that voice...that little voice in my head...kept telling me this was not a fire drill.
My dear friend Julie offers to sit with me at the hospital. I tell her that is ridiculous, that we will be in and out in under an hour, there is no need to inconvenience her family to do that. But secretly, I am yelling silently, "Yes! Please! Come sit with me!".
The cath does not go well. I am summoned by the doctor who tells me that they "found something", a 100 percent blockage in Adam's LAD (aka the Widow Maker). Attempts were made to open up the blockage but it couldn't be done safely.
The two months that followed were dramatic and filled with uncertainty. Finally, after weighing and reweighing all of our options, testing and retesting Adam's heart and making and then unmaking all of our decisions, we decided to go ahead with a coronary artery bypass.
The morning of his surgery, the drive to the hospital seems more like a drive to an execution rather than to a medical facility. We alternate uncomfortably between sitting in silence and making small talk.
When we arrive at the check-in desk, we are prepared to sit for several hours but within minutes, a nurse appears and calls Adam's name. Hearing it, I am immediately struck with a deep and wounding shot of pure dread and utter sadness. This could be...this could be the last time I see him. It probably won't be...but knowing it could be....Adam looks at me with the eyes of a child. Scared, sad, pleading eyes. I don't blink. I don't cry. I look back, sure, confident. His safe haven. Then the nurse tells him to take off his wedding ring and his eyes fill with tears. My sureness and confidence leave me. I suddenly hate this room, hate this hospital, hate this moment because I know I will never forget it. I know the memory of it will keep me up at night (and it turns out I am right on both counts). I am angry at the nurse. I feel cheated out of more time with husband, as if I thought we could somehow manage to enjoy sitting in the surgical waiting room together, as if it could make this situation almost normal. I slip his wedding ring on my thumb where it will stay for the next several days. We quickly hug and kiss and Adam disappears down a hall. I sit down, feeling very alone, though I have Adam's mother and one of his sweet friends from our synagogue sitting next to me.
A little later, a lady at the front of the room calls my name and hands me a big plastic bag with the clothes and shoes Adam wore into the hospital. Seeing his socks and underwear in that bag sickens me. I don't want his clothes to be sitting next to me in a bag. I want him to be sitting next me. Adam's bag of clothes becomes a vicious and insensitive reminder to me that only a few minutes earlier, he was safely sitting next to me, dressed and in control. Now he is down some hall, alone, where I can't get to him.
An hour later, I pretend to eat breakfast sensibly. I feel Eli kicking around inside of me. I am surrounded by my dear friends and family. I am hunkered in the ICU waiting room for the day, not expecting to hear any word until at least 11:30 or 12:00. Around 10:00, I see Adam's surgeon, Dr. Guyton, walk into the waiting room and I figure he is there to see another family. But his gaze locks mine and my mind begins to do the math and I start to prepare myself to hear the worst because there could only be one reason why the surgery is over so soon.
Dr. Guyton says, "Hello, Jennifer. The bypass is complete and......." I hear nothing else even though he continues for several minutes. He leaves and I look up at the cieling and say thank to you to G-d and I try to breathe choking on heavy breaths and tears of relief. And part of me knows that this was easy part and now the hard part (his recovery) has begun.
So yes, last week proved to be an emotional week for us. Not only because with Happy Heart Day approaching emotions were running high while we were busy remembering what we were doing at this time last year, but also because we received word that Adam's beloved cardiologist died. The man he viewed as almost a father and who took such amazing care of this ridiculously young, pregnant and frightened couple, the man whose son sits in our synagogue and worships with us on Shabbat mornings who only through his father's death we have had the pleasure of officially meeting, the man who has a lovely and loving wife, grandchildren, patients who revere him for his beautiful bedside manner. The doctor who calls on Sunday nights to check in, who practices medicine the way it has stopped being practiced by other doctors. Who would spend countless hours in conference rooms answering even the silliest questions with seriousness and compassion. Who hugged my husband tightly not more than two weeks ago to share the happiness of a full recovery. Dr. Mark Silverman, who was kind, and gentle, and quite literally held my husband's hand through one of the darkest times of his life. We visited his home during Shiva on Monday night and it was clear to me that we were among the many (hundreds!?) of people whose lives he has significantly touched. I know Adam thanked him countless times for his guidance and care and I'm so glad he was able to do that. It reminds me (as if I needed reminders) of how important it is to tell the people in your lives what they mean to you while you have the chance.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
So now that our life has returned to a delicious and wonderful normal, I can begin to turn my back on those sad thoughts and have been savoring every moment of this fall. Fall, for our family, is a season full of traditions...the state fair, the pumpkin patch, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving weekend at the cabin with friends. To be doing these same things, these exact same things as last year, reminds me how I felt 12 months ago, how vulnerable we were just a year ago and what a different way my life could've turned. It takes my breath away. I am ever so thankful that we are able to be having such great fun and galavanting with our complete family in tow all over the city.
Pictures of the recent festivities to follow...
I am also pleased to announce that it looks like I may be a college student again! Though I have not received the official word, it seems (by unofficial records) that Kennesaw State University has accepted me! Once I complete a few more prerequisites at the school, I will then be able to apply to the nursing school, so while that will be the REAL celebration, I'm still rather excited that at least one of the obstacles is checked off my list! Going to nursing school has been a (VERY lofty) dream of mine for quite a while so knowing that I am all that much closer to a goal that I never thought I would fulfill is exciting to say the least. I guess I will have to cancel those voice lessons now...(more on that later!)
I'm giddy...if you'd asked me at this time last year that I'd have myself and my (our) life together enough to even be able to think about applying to school again, I'd have laughed myself silly. That my husband would be healthy enough to help me, that I would be feeling great and no longer hopelessly exhausted from taking care of all (three) of my boys solo, that my children would be so happy and good natured that taking care of them would be just a little more than effortless...I wouldn't have believed it. Wouldn't have believed it at all. So, life is good, my friends. Life is good.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I have often thought about sharing my thoughts about Gavin here but had never had the courage to ask Amanda for her permission to do so. I think I felt that her memories of Gavin are sacred and to share mine might somehow spoil or infringe upon hers. I've started to see the error in that thinking though. For others to share their thoughts and memories of her sweet son makes him real, makes his life real. Makes it apparent that though he died, he also lived.
(And yes, I do have her permission to blog about Gavin now. I finally found the courage to ask, and not only was she okay with it, she said it did wonders for her heart and soul to know that other people outside of her family, still think of him.)
I spent this past Monday morning at Amanda's house. She asked for my help packing up the things in Gavin's room. She said that she was torturing herself by going in there and opening his drawers, smelling his little clothes, looking at his diapers neatly lined up in rows in his dresser and that the time had come to put it away. When I stepped foot in his room, I realized it was the only time I'd ever been in there. When he was home from the hospital, he was too sick to sleep alone and he either spent his nights in bed snuggled with Amanda and her husband, Chris, or another family member who had come to hold him while Gavin's weary parents tried to rest. Gavin was not expected to live many days after his release from the hospital but he hung on for several weeks. At his funeral, the family's pastor said that the only reason Gavin was able to live so long was because of the power of the human touch. That he lived because he was constantly being held in someone's loving arms. That statement was so profound and so resonant with me and I was reminded of how important that power is, the power of human touch.
I remember holding Gavin one night, I think the only time I ever held him. (I am so grateful to Amanda for sharing him and so awed at her selflessness in allowing her friends to eat up some of the precious few hours she had with her son. It will never, ever cease to amaze me, that selflessness she displayed in those difficult weeks.) Anyhow, the night I was able to hold him was one of the first days that they were home from the hospital. Amanda had called our group of close friends to go over and we sat in her quiet and cozy living room in a tight little circle and took turns snuggling with little Gavin. When it was my turn and I looked at his cute, tiny, absolutely perfect face, I had a glimmer of hope. Hope that there was some mistake, a misdiagnosis, and that he would be just fine. Did Amanda have this hope too? It was so easy to trick yourself into thinking that just maybe it could turn out differently. My turn to hold him ended much too quickly. When it was time to let someone else enjoy his sweetness, my stomach sank and I simply didn't want to let go of him. And it struck me at that moment, that if that's how I felt about letting him go and feeling that my moments with him passed by too quickly, then I don't think I could even begin to comprehend the depths of Amanda's grief and sorrow and instincts to hold tight to her little boy and frustration with what little time she had with him and how deep her desire to never have to let go. That if I had trouble handing him over to one of my close friends when it was her turn to hold him, how would Amanda be able to find the strength to hand him over to G-d when it was His turn to hold Gavin?
When Amanda and I sat down in front of Gavin's dresser this week, ready to put the clothes that Amanda had lovingly washed and folded and put away in drawers in anticipation of his arrival, a panic spread through me, a sickness in my stomach that clearly told me that this was for real. That he really was gone. I imagine Amanda must have experienced a similar feeling, tears pouring down her face as we sat looking at his drawers full of his things. I looked around as I sat there with her and saw just how ready his room was. Just waiting for him, saying in a gentle whisper, "Come on in, little man!". I didn't want to touch anything the wrong way, or sneak in a sniff of jammies lest I steal the smell of Gavin away from her. I treaded carefully, gently, as respectfully as I could. I felt that I was among relics. And I guess that sounds funny, but in a way, they were. Relics of a short life, yet a life lived. In an ever so meaningful way.
An hour or two later (just an hour or two to pack up his little life) the drawers and baskets and closet were empty, everything neatly packed in boxes now stacked in the storage room. Amanda had saved a few outfits that Gavin had been able to wear while he was home, as well as a couple of blankets and hats and socks he'd used. She had set aside an adorable, heart-shaped keepsake box to pack those precious momentos away in. I sat quietly as I watched her fold, unfold, and refold his few little outfits. Placing them in the box. Taking them out. Putting them back in so they would be just so. I watched her do this, sitting near to her so she would not be alone but trying not to intrude on her moments with Gavin's things. I prayed to G-d that she would not pick up on the symbolism of this task, that she wouldn't realize the significance, at least until later. She popped his little pacifier in the box, rearranged another outfit, put the top of the box on and said through her sobs, "All I have left of him is in a box." And I thought, "I guess G-d didn't hear me," because she sure as hell got it.
I have so much more of him to share and I will. But for now, I thought this day, October 15th, the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss, was an appropriate day to start his story.
Please light a candle tonight. And remember my dear friend Amanda's third son Gavin. And all the other little ones who could only be held by their mothers and fathers and families and friends for a short time, or who never could be held at all.
And remember what Gavin and his extraordinary life taught us...how strong the power of the human touch.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I was nursing a bad cold last week and Ethan desperately wanted some of my soup. I told him I couldn't share because he'd catch my germs and I didn't want him to get sick. I spent much of the morning in bed, leaving Eli in the Exersaucer and letting Ethan watch horrible shows on TV while eating whatever he picked out for lunch (Apple Jacks out the box. Eek!). Later, when I felt better, I joked to him that he must like it when I'm sick because he gets to do all kinds of things he can't do on a normal day.
He looked at me seriously and said, "No, Mommy. I don't like it all when you are sick. Because then you can't kiss me."
And speaking of sighs, Adam and I shared a wonderful moment last night. After having dinner with some friends, we headed home and both boys fell asleep in the car. I LOVE when they both are sleeping in the backseat. And not neccessarily because of the delicious peace and quiet that envelops the car, but just because they look so darn sweet back there. Heads lolling to one side, tiny snores coming from their noses, chests rising up and down, hands still in their laps. So unbelievably sweet and peaceful.
When Adam and I pulled into the garage, we each opened up one of the backseat doors and instead of immediately carting them off to bed, we just stared at them. I whispered to Adam with tear-filled eyes, "We made them!".
We made them. There are times when the magnitude of that hits me so hard. It is so obvious, yet something that I easily forget. Adam and I were just two people and we MADE a family of four. Such a simple thought, yet so difficult to wrap my head around it, around the weight that it carries.
Adam and I were on man-to-man defense and his man for the night was Eli, and I squeezed Ethan extra tightly as I scooped him up and carried him up to bed. I buried my nose in the curve of his neck as I gently walked up the stairs, trying not to wake him. When I laid him on his bed, he said he was "too tired" to get his jammies on himself and asked if I could please do it for him. I remember so well being a kid and falling asleep in the car on the way home from somewhere with my parents and being soooo sleepy when we got home and asking my mom to do the same thing. And what comfort it brought to have her do that for me, so I was so happy to be able to dress my little boy for bed while his eyes stayed closed. We skipped brushing teeth and washing up, and I kissed his sticky face and smelled his sweaty head and spent the rest of the night feeling dreamy and content.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I was heading back home from the airport after a weekend away (a girls' trip in honor of my dear friend Tricia's upcoming wedding). I had the radio on and was thinking about the week ahead. I remembered that Adam had a PET scan scheduled for Monday. It has been almost a year to the day that he had his surgery. The scan is done to measure the blood flow to the heart. The heart rate is increased artificially and then photos are taken of the heart. Last time this the test was administered, Adam's heart showed over 50% ischemia, meaning that during exertion, Adam's heart was getting less than 50% of the blood it needed. When looking at the pictures, you could see where his heart was also getting enlarged, meaning that it wasn't functioning properly at all when not at rest. This was the test that pushed us over the fence in terms of making the decision to move forward, quickly, with surgery.
Anyhow, as I was thinking pretty deeply about this test and what good (or bad) results would mean for Adam and for us this time around, I reached out and changed channels on the radio. "You Want To Make a Memory" by Bon Jovi had just started on the channel that I turned to. Now, if you've followed my blog, you know what the significance of this song holds for me. If you are only just starting to read it, or are having a senior moment, here's the background: http://talesofasouthernyankee.blogspot.com/2008/08/i-wouldnt-have-missed-dance.html
I felt unsettled and queasy and had this familiar "here we go again" feeling in my (sinking) heart. When I arrived at home, I pushed these thoughts out of my mind. I hadn't seen Adam all weekend, found out the kids had been sick and didn't want to get into any kind of deep discussion. And I'm not above enjoying a little denial either.
Later that night, Adam was organizing his medications for the week and took his daily handful of supplements and lifesaving pills. He immediately realized that he had taken one of the medications he was supposed to refrain from taking in preparation for his test. He figured he would call the hospital in the morning and find out how significantly this might affect the test results. An hour or so went by and he told me he didn't feel all that hot (fighting off the cold that we all have had here) and thought that it might be best to reschedule his test. He said he was so sensitive to those results that he didn't want to do the test with any conditions that would affect the outcome. I told him that though I didn't want to share why, I really wanted him to postpone the test as well. He agreed and will take it later next week. I am partly relieved but partly on edge and trying to remember that I am NOT superstitious.
One of the blogs I read regularly, MckMama's blog, has this fun little thing going on called "Not Me Monday", where you spend the post saying things you didn't do, but actually did do. Now, it doesn't sound like that much fun, but I promise, once you get reading, it is! Anyhow, even though it is Tuesday...and almost midnight, so nearing Wednesday, here's my attempt at Not Me Monday.
I most definitely did not put Eli down for a nap yesterday and then promptly bribe Ethan with watching a kids' show that is off-limits in our house so I could take a nap. And then I absolutely did not put on a second forbidden show so I could nap longer. Heck, no. I would never even think to do something like that. Not me.
I did not plop Eli down on the floor and have him hold his own bottle today so that I could put on clean clothes before I picked Ethan up from school. What kind of mother would I be if I did something like that?
I didn't smell a pair of Ethan's socks today to determine if they were clean or dirty. How gross would that be?
I wasn't secretly glad that Adam had to work late because it allowed me to get out of cooking a meal, setting the table and then cleaning up afterward. And I didn't let Ethan watch Curious George while he sat and ate his dinner at his little kids' table. No sir, not me.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
1) Pray for me and my soul
2) Attempt to persuade me to see the "truth"
3) Disregard any input I offered to the class
Somewhat predicatably, none of these things have happened. Partly, its because I've kept my Jewish identity to myself but now that I am thinking more rationally, I'm fairly certain that none of those things would happen even if I did share my Jewish background. (More on that in a bit).
I worried about having to be the one coming up from behind. About having to defend my views and beliefs at every turn. I worried that I was looking like a sell out to my friends, that it would apper that I was just taking the class for the social aspects and casting my faith aside just to be part of the crowd. And finally, after thinking on it and talking about it with one of my dear friends, I had to just stop worrying about what OTHER people were thinking about me, because doing this bible study has nothing to do with what other people think. It has to do with me and what's in my heart and what I can learn from it. And the truth is, I can learn a lot. Whether or not the teaching is a Jewish teaching or a Jewish thought isn't the important part...what's important is if I can apply it in my life and make myself better and more spiritual and more kind and more patient and closer to G-d. Understanding how I can fit what we learn within a Jewish framework is just an extra assignment that I have that the rest of the class does not.
As for the Jewish part, I haven't kept it quiet because I'm embarrassed. Or afraid of the reaction and reception I might receive. It's mostly because in the setting of the class, it just became not that important. What I believe in my heart and what the wonderful women that I meet with each Thursday morning believe in their hearts are not all that different. We all pray for wisdom and patience and kindness and help and guidance and for G-d to be near to us. We all have our challenges and fears and trepidations and heartaches. We all have questions and sometimes we look to G-d to answer them and sometimes to each other. I'm not there to change their mind about their faith and they're not there to change mine. So, until it comes up or becomes appropriate or neccessary, I'm happy to continue learning with the rest of the class in my own way. I don't feel like I need to make a big announcement but I also I don't feel like I'm selling out on my faith by not speaking about it. I know who I am and what's in my heart and I don't neccessarily need to make sure that everyone else does too.
As for the study itself, I love it. We read a lot of Old Testament as well as a lot of New Testament. I had to borrow a bible from my friend that has the New Testament because my Tanakh (the Jewish bible) does not have it (duh). Oddly, last week, my Rabbi spoke about the New Testament during his sermon on Shabbat. I about fell out of my chair. Not because he spoke about it during services but because I'd been feeling a wee bit guilty for reading it...and there goes my Rabbi talking about it and even quoting it! So yes, it is a historical document just like the Old Testament, and though we don't use it as guideline in our faith, it is there. I think I am a bit more sensitive to the Old Testament/New Testament stuff simply because I am a Jew by choice and there was a time in my life where the New Testament did hold significance for me and I think that part of me has felt that in order to "prove" that I'm a Jew, I have to close my eyes to the existence of the New Testament...I of course now realize that this is a ridiculous thought.
The other day in class, I had out my handy Tanakh (which is in English and Hebrew) and one of the girls sitting next to me, peers over my shoulder and says, "Oh. Is that Arabic?". To which I answer, "No. It's Hebrew." Her eyes get wide and she says, "Can you read Hebrew?". And I answer honestly, "No. Well, sort of. I can muddle through it. Slowly." Reading Hebrew and understanding Hebrew are very different. I say lots of things in Hebrew but have no idea what I'm saying. Our services, except for the sermon and a couple of prayers for our country and Israel, are entirely in Hebrew. How do I understand what is being said? I couldn't tell you how I understand. I just do. You can just tell. Most of the service is chanted in a variety of beautiful melodies, so using that alone as a clue kind of tips you off to the theme of what is being said. Some parts of our siddur (prayer book) have the English translation, so that helps, but I rarely read the English. Some days, when I feel unfocused, I will use the English to help, but I feel very generic when I do that. In the early days of my Jewish study, I only read the English (which was difficult because it isn't available for the entire service, just bits and pieces).
It takes practice, reading and saying the service in Hebrew. And I'm pleased to say that I am (slooooooooooooooooowly) improving. A wonderful thing happened during the last two Shabbat services I attended. I was struggling with keeping up with the hazzan (the person leading services...our services are lead by the congregation, the Rabbi leads very little, if any of the service). During my struggle, I took a moment and prayed for G-d to be near me. "Be near me, G-d. Help me focus. Please be near me." Not exactly word for word, but along those lines. I almost always start off my prayers in Hebrew..."Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam..." (roughly translated to mean blessed are you, Adonai, our G-d, creator of the universe....). Anyhow, I had my struggles, said my prayer, stared hard at my siddur, listened to Joanna's (my friend and rabbi's wife who was leading this particular part of the service) beautiful voice, and then I realized I was following along, word for word, the Hebrew. Sounding out letters that I didn't know I knew. Not missing very much at all! It was wonderful and I felt so full.
Anyway, back to my bible study...suffice it to say that I am enjoying it, enjoying the community, enjoying having something to discuss with my girlfriends other than kids, gossip, housework, etc. I think it is strengthening our friendships and even for that reason alone, I am enjoying it. But it also teaching me to be better, to think in different terms, to understand that what might be perceived as "fair" doesn't neccessarily mean it is "good" or "right". I am learning (slowly, ever so slowly) to process my thoughts and to present my reactions with more patience, with more purpose, within a framework rather than with an instinct. I am a long way away from where I'd like to be, but I know that I am on the right road.
Ethan: Does G-d have a mustache?
Me: Hm...I'm not sure, Ethan.
Ethan: I know G-d isn't a man, but I think he does have a mustache.
Me: He might.
Ethan: Does he have a mouth?
Me: I'm not sure about that, either.
Ethan: Well, doesn't he talk to us?
Me: Yes, I think G-d does talk to us.
Ethan: Can you hear his voice?
Me: I think if you are really still, and you pray, and you really want to hear his voice, that G-d will speak to you and you can hear him.
Ethan: You know what makes G-d happy? When you don't lie.
So...all in all, I think a successful conversation. But you gotta love this kid...wondering if G-d has a mustache!!!! I'm glad to know that G-d is on Ethan's mind, because G-d has been on my mind a whole lot these days...even if it is just to wonder what sort of facial hair he might have, it certainly is a good start!
Cross posted from TheSlipakoff.blogspot.com
Second, answer the questions.
1. How many children do you have?
Two sweet, sweet boys.
Ethan is 4 and Eli is 7 months.
3. What time of day do you start your day?
Preferably, not before 8 a.m. I set my alarm for 8 and hope that neither of the boys wake up before it goes off. Usually (and thankfully!) they are both still asleep, or at least starting to stir, when 8 a.m. hits. Ethan typically gets up before Eli, but sometimes, Eli surprises me a bit early. Ethan eats breakfast, watches a "kid's show", and then gets dressed for school...usually in the clothes I lay out for him, but sometimes he overrules my wardrobe choice and comes downstairs in one of his many (and usually too small) Red Sox shirts. Eli has a bottle and plays in his Exersaucer while I get dressed.
4. What do you eat for breakfast?
Decaf coffee. Sometimes that's all. Sometimes I have a bagel (not usually, since I don't have time in the morning rush to wait for it to hang out in the toaster). Sometimes I swing by Dunkin' Donuts and get an eggwhite flatbread with low-fat cheese. Sometimes I eat a Kashi breakfast bar. Once in a while I'll make smoothies with frozen fruit, skim milk and low-fat yogurt. Ethan usually has a waffle or cereal and fruit.
Ethan loves TV so I really have to keep an eye on how long I let him watch. He always watches it while he has breakfast. (I'm usually racing around getting Eli settled and getting myself dressed and I don't really expect him to sit quietly all alone while he eats his breakfast). He will also watch when I am putting Eli down for naps or to bed. And then maybe one or two shows in the afternoon, depending on the day and how much TV he has already had. I try to run a good balance between limiting it and also not making it the forbidden fruit. I am also very strict about what I will let him watch. Nothing with guns, shooting, swords, violence, potty words, naughty words (I consider "stupid" and "idiot" to be naughty words even though they run rampant in Disney movies!) Things like Power Rangers, Transformers and Sponge Bob are definitely off-limits in our house. His favorite shows are Curious George, Charlie and Lola (my personal favorite, I LOVE that show!), Franklin and Backyardigans. He will also watch the occasional educational show such as Word Girl and Super Why.
6. What are their favorite activities?
Ethan's favorite things to play with are Monster Trucks and Hot Wheels. He is also an avid builder and can make some really amazing things with blocks (I think he might be an architect). He loves to dress up and has quite a collection of costumes, which he often wears outside of our home.
7. Do you get a break during the day from them?
Not really. I do have a wonderful sitter who comes once a week to watch Eli which is just amazing. I run errands, go to dentist/doctor appointments (or goof off at Starbucks and the bookstore) in the morning and then will pick Ethan up from school in the afternoon and do something fun with just him. Today, we are going to Target so he can use his chore money to buy a new toy. I try to have Ethan in bed by 8:30 so that I have the rest of the night to myself to chat with Adam, read, knit and/or watch one of my favorite shows on TV. If I haven't taken my add medicine, I've been known to do all four at once! But, usually, I wind up cleaning the kitchen, making lunch, doing laundry, cleaning the playroom, etc. until about 10:30 and then I sneak in an hour or so of reading/knitting/TV and go to bed by about midnight.
8. How do you end your day?
I almost always read in my bed before going to sleep, say the Shema (Jewish prayer said twice a day, once in the morning and once before going to bed) and will either turn out the light and fall asleep or fall asleep with the light on and book next to me (Adam's personal favorite because not only is he faced with the task of turning out the light - which is really super loud - but also wrestle my book out from under me all without waking me up.)
9. What is your best parenting tip?
I think the best thing you can offer your child is consistency. In my opinion, Time Out isn't just for home. When Ethan was younger, if he acted up in a restaurant, we went outside for Time Out. If he acted up in Target...out of the cart and near an empty wall for Time Out. So far, it seems to be working. Typically, I can offer the same results of Time Out with just a look and/or glare. As he's gotten older and more independent, dealing with his behavior has offered some new challenges, but I find if I am consistent, then I see a better result. This is often more trouble than it seems to be worth...something my husband doesn't really understand. For instance, if Ethan asks for something that isn't all that big or important and I say no and then he whines, Adam would rather give in to him than endure the whining. Not me. I'll deal with the whining up front because I know that long term, being consistent and following through will make my life easier. Sure, there are days that I get lazy and don't follow my own advice, but typically, I try to stick to the rules no matter how difficult it is for me in the moment.
10. Tag 5 people.
Hm...I don't know if I know five people who blog...um....Cara, Angela, Julie...Mckmama...
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I have a few theories about why we don't shout out "Be Jewish!" from the rooftops...but I'm not sure any of them have any validity and I'd like to do some more research before I go into this any deeper. Instead, let me explain what I consider to be the difference between outreach and outright proselytizing.
Outreach: education (particularly where it applies to interfaith marriages), learning opportunities for those interested in converting. Teaching, not tempting, sharing, not scaring. All of this done in a very relaxed manner...if you want to sign up, great! If not, now you know why! And if you decide to sign up...be prepared, it ain't going to be easy! For those Sex and the City fans who watched Charlotte get turned away by the Rabbi three times who wonder if that method is still in practice, let me tell you, that to an extent, it is. While I wasn't exactly turned away by my beloved Rabbi, it certainly wasn't easy to pin him down initially to talk to me about conversion. Fielding excuses like it's time consuming, hard to manage too many students, etc., I KNEW he was the man for the job so I wouldn't listen. He finally agreed and I began to show up at his office, dutifully and eagerly, every other week for more than a year. We were scheduled to meet for one hour, but I don't think our conversations ever wrapped up earlier than two hours after they'd started.
Now proselytizing...that seems a little more aggressive to me. More like sending the message "THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE, WHAT YOU ARE DOING STINKS, WHAT I AM DOING IS BETTER AND HERE'S WHY!". Now, I will relent that there are some that this message should be offered to...but I won't be the one to do it. Way too personal and in your face for me. Now I'm a personal and in your face sort of gal, but not when it comes to matters of the heart (at least that's what I like to believe about myself!). I also happen to believe that proselytizing is lost on those who love their faith. Faith is something that is hard to change. You've got to have some pretty decent sized doubts to begin with if you set about on a journey to find a new faith. I don't think you simply wake up one day, answer the door to someone who has come knocking, and say "Gee, I've been living wrong this whole time!". And if/when you change your faith, I think for the most part, you've already identified the parts and pieces that don't jive in your former faith, so the decision on what path to take in terms of the new faith to follow, is for the most part pretty obvious. At that point, you just need the courage to follow it.
I also happen to believe that faith and religion, though typically practiced within a group setting, are deeply, deeply personal. I don't feel comfortable telling someone that my heart is right and theirs is wrong. Sort of like telling your best friend that her husband sucks and you'd be happy to introduce to her a new man...yeah...that wouldn't go well. How awkward.
BUT, all that being said...I LOVE to learn about faith. My own faith, my friends' faith, anything to do with religion is utterly fascinating to me. I think if you can come from a place of deep respect then there is much to be learned from someone who follows a different path of faith than you do. And I've even put my money where my mouth is. I have signed up for a bible study with a few girlfriends who belong to the Methodist church. I will admit that it isn't exactly what I'd anticipated (and believe me, I looked at this from ALL angles) but I think that my mind is still open to it and I firmly believe that any type of learning is well worth the effort. For me, coming at the Bible from a TOTALLY different perspective has been eye opening to say the least! Does that mean there aren't parts of what I'm reading or hearing that make me squirm...uh, no. And in a lot of ways, it solidifies to me that I really did make the right decision in becoming a Jew. But I also am committed to maintaining an open mind. And I should state here that I think there is a difference between having a mind that is open and having a mind that is willing to be CHANGED...my beliefs are firm and steadfast and are not up for debate in terms of whether they are wrong or right, so there will be no changed minds, but there will also be no closed minds either. My mind is open in a way that will allow me to learn the way my friends learn even if the entire message won't stick. I like the idea of understanding what they believe by learning it the way they learn it for myself, rather than relying on assumptions, hunches or hearsay. I like sitting in the same room with them, hearing the same words but being comfortable enough to hear (and discuss) a different message. I also like being able to draw the similarities among what we all believe - and there are more than just a few!
I am looking forward to sharing more of what I learn from this study with you as it continues. We had our first class last week and I will post about that a bit later...I sort of wanted to keep these posts separate (though wasn't entirely successful). I didn't want to talk about proselytizing and my class in the same breath, because I don't think there is neccessarily any correlation between the two, other than that I was trying to make sure that I made the message clear that I am more than happy to listen when anyone discusses their faith (as long as it is done with respect of course!).
Monday, September 1, 2008
The day you were born will certainly be the most unforgettable day in my life. Your dad and I experienced so many different emotions that day, all of them so fierce and consuming. It took me over three hours to push you out and I was able to hold you before they cut the umbilical cord. You were so red and slimy and I will never forget the feeling of your wet skin and your warm body against me - it was one of the sweetest moments of my life. I wanted to hold that moment forever, hold YOU forever.
Grammie and your dad were in the delivery room with me and both watched you come out - your head first, then shoulders, then the rest of you. All three of us cheered, laughed and cried and I realized I had lived my whole life waiting for that moment but at the same time was totally unprepared for and overwhelmed and amazed by how much I loved you already. I wouldn't trade my memory of those few minutes for any single thing in this world.
I spent the first few days at home just staring at you. I barely slept and I did not care - I didn't want to miss a moment. Of course, in the weeks to come, I began to miss sleeping but my exhaustion is a small price to pay to have you in my life. Each time I look at you, I am amazed by your innocence. During my pregnancy I enjoyed being in state of wonder and I am glad to see it continuing into motherhood. I look at you and see an entire lifetime of possibilities - you are so small, yet so significant and so humbling. I just love you. As I write this, you are almost three weeks old and are sleeping in my lap. I look at you and realize how much you have changed and grown in such a short time and I know that the rest of my life will be spent wanting time to slow down so I can have more time to enjoy you.
Cross posted from theslipakoff.blogspot.com
Saturday, August 30, 2008
The one I read today was about interfaith marriages and the Conservative movement's "stand" against them. You know, for a faith base that is made up of so many people who still walk around claiming to be persecuted, prejudged and misjudged, we certainly have our fair share of people who are more than happy to offer their prejudiced (and might I add, ignorant) viewpoints about members of their own faith. I am DISGUSTED by this article, not neccessarily by its specific message but by the general narrow-minded, judgemental, uneducated manner in which the author attempts to lay a solid ground for his argument. Okay. And I'm not happy about the message either. But I can't believe that this guy shares the same faith as me. Seriously. Do we not encounter enough people outside of our faith that treat us as though we are the losing team that we feel the need to treat our own this way? Let me share some of the "highlights" (and I do use that term loosely).
First of all, the name of the article ticked me off from the get go. "Encouraging a Jewish Choice". Since when do Jews proselityze??? I must've missed this day at Hebrew school. (I actually didn't go to Hebrew school. I was just trying to add emphasis, but then I felt like I was being a poser and should tell you that I didn't go to Hebrew school so you didn't think I was lying....anyway...again...the Adderall...gotta take that tomorrow...)
The article starts off by offering this comment: "Inmarriage must continue to be a high priority for Conservative Jews...Although we must continue to promote inmarriage aggressively, our efforts are not always successful. Even with the best education, a positive home life, and exposure to the richness of Judaism, some people will intermarry." I think it's the term "even with the best education" that sent me over the edge as its inference clearly is that only the stupid and uneducated Jew would marry a non-Jew. Nice.
It goes on to say, "In the past, when an intermarriage occurred the couple often was shunned by the Jewish community. Fortunately, we have learned the folly of this strategy." Uh, excuse me? This smacks of a back-handed compliment to me. We've learned the folly of this "strategy"? What about learning what's wrong with you? How about rephrasing that to say, "Fortunately, we've learned what a bunch of jerks we were being by thinking that we can tell someone else who they should or shouldn't marry and making them feel ashamed for their choice of a partner." Since when do we walk around thinking that someone isn't worth our time, praise, love and committment simply because they aren't Jewish? Since when is that sort of thinking acceptable?
In the next paragraph, the author offers this, "The first step we can take is welcoming the intermarried." Um. Do you think we could start by not calling them the intermarried? I mean, really. Might as well say let's welcome the diseased. The second step that is offered is to "create an ambience in which the intermarried will feel comfortable and accepted." Okay, so other than continuing to call these poor folks the intermarried, this seems reasonable. Except, that the author offers up the reasons why we should create this "welcoming" ambience to "the intermarried", which is that Jewish law tells us to. So we shouldn't be nice for the sake of being nice? We should only be nice because we are told to be nice? Huh. I'm not really okay with that. And remember, this perspective is coming from me, once a member of the dreaded intermarrieds club and now Jew by choice. You'd think I'd be all for this, trying to get people on my bandwagon. But I'm not. I don't agree with this message and I think that says a lot.
And now apparently, the Conservative movement is encouraging "congregations to passionately and compassionately inspire non-Jews within an intermarriage (GASP! THE INTERMARRIEDS!) to convert." I'm sorry. This isn't cool with me. This isn't cool at all. But apparently, the guy that wrote this article has done his research because he states that whenever he talks to a Jew by choice, they invariably have said that their reason for conversion was the result of their Jewish spouse who "consistently and sensitively continued to raise the issue of conversion" with them. I'm sorry? Does this sound like a good reason to choose a faith? Because your husband or wife harped on you over and over and over again and finally wore you down so you said "FINE! Let me forsake my savior just because you said I should" and jumped in the Mikvah and then maybe never stepped foot in a synagogue after that?
I have to say, as a member of a Conservative congregation, I just don't see this happening and I definitely don't see this flying. Though I am no Rabbi and certainly don't have the life experience that this guy does, I have taken a lot of classes with people who were considering, were in the process of, or recently converted. And not one of them was converting because their spouse was pushing them to do it. Of course, some of the individuals I met were converting in preparation for a wedding, but I don't think it was because they caved under the pressure of their "consistent and sensitive" partner. I'll tell you what, if Adam began to "consistently and sensitively continue to raise the issue of conversion" with me I would've headed for the hills. And even if I didn't head for the hills and just went along with his demands, I mean requests, my Jewish practice would almost certainly not have flourished the way it has been able to because I came to the decision to convert all by my very own self. Imagine. It is something I wanted to do. For me. Largely in part for my family, but also for me. And that decision was made by me. I didn't have anyone telling me why I should do it. And it wouldn't have flown in my house to be made to think that the happiness and richness of my family would be hinging on my choice to be Jewish.
I think that our Jewish marriage and Jewish life is an excellent example of why it is appropriate and beneficial for a spouse to allow their non-Jewish spouse to come into their own decision regarding conversion. I had the freedom to continue my life as is and that was perfectly acceptable for Adam. After all, he married ME, as I was. He didn't marry a Jewish girl. And he could've. But he fell in love with me and who I was and our life would've been just lovely if I'd not become Jewish...because...and here's the heart of the REAL issue...I would've participated in every single Jewish tradition that Adam wanted me to participate in. I would've supported him and our children in the faith journey that was important to him and them. I would've done this happily with Adam and our children. And THAT'S the issue. The goal is to raise a cohesive, mindful, loving family. I could've done that just as well not being Jewish. I think the problem lies not within having one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, I think it lies within having two parents who don't support each other and aren't on the same page in terms of their values and how they pertain to their family. Judaism certainly provides guidelines for parents to raise their children, but you can still follow those guidelines whether you're in the club or not! It's when there are NO guidelines or conflicting guidelines that problems arise.
And here's a question: Is it better to married to someone who is "passively" Jewish (meaning that they say they are Jewish but don't go to services, don't observe the holidays, don't participate in Shabbat, etc.)? You know my answer of course will be a resounding NO! Do you see what I'm getting at? The issue isn't whether or not we, as a Conservative movement, should be trying to convince people to convert....the issue is whether or not families as a unit are choosing to be Jewish, not individuals within the family. How about as a movement, we try to strengthen what we already have rather than try to strengthen the chain with weak links? And I think that we could start with opening our minds just a bit.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
And then that fourth picture...I love how the porch light is caught glittering in the background of the mezuzah. It's lovely! And so telling! As if to say, "Hang up your mezuzah, live a Jewish life, live in a Jewish home and what lies beyond your doors will glitter and sparkle!".
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I had a heavy heart driving Ethan and Adam to the airport this morning. I know the Ethan was over the moon about having Bubbie all to himself and Adam really needs some time away from work so I was happy for them in that regard. But, I haven't been away from Ethan in a long while...I think maybe the last time was in October? He's my little sidekick, he keeps me company during the long afternoon hours in between naptime and dinner/bed time, he laughs at Eli's antics with me, helps me do little thing around the house, constantly provides some chatter, is always available for a big hug and smooch. Adam and I had been looking forward to some alone time also and so I'm bummed that we're missing out on that. I cried when I hugged the big boys goodbye. Ethan looked so grown up in his little collared shirt and pulling his little suitcase. Adam reported that he was a dream on the plane. I came home to a bunch of action figures scattered on the kitchen floor and felt so sad! I know I'll see him in a few days but the house is just so empty without that little guy! I feel like half of me is missing.
Eli and I took off to Ikea after the airport. He was a bit fussy from his little ears so we mostly sat in the cafeteria and snuggled while I ate my lunch with one hand. It was nice to have some one-on-one time with Eli that wasn't rushed by the constraints of the rest of my schedule...didn't have to rush off to get back to the house for a nap, or to get in the carpool line, or get dinner cooked and on the table...today was definitely relaxing, especially the two-hour nap that Eli took on my chest while I watched tv on the couch. I never get to do that sort of thing usually! It was such a treat for me. I just smelled him and rubbed his back and kissed his cheeks and looked at his little, red lips. Such a sweet little meatball! I think I'm in love!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Our plan now is to have Adam and Ethan go ahead with the trip as scheduled and Eli and I will stay home. Even if his ears are ok, I can't bring a sick baby on a plane and I certainly don't want to leave my mother-in-law with a sick kiddo. That would just not be kind. I already felt like I was asking a lot of her to watch both boys, but asking her to take a sick kid on top of everything is just too much. I'm sure she would be a wonderful caretaker and would even do it if we asked, I just can't ask something like that. A sick babe belongs in his mother's arms.
We'll see what Dr. Foote says. I am dreading going into his office...not because I'm worried about Eli but because this guy is serioisly going to think I am NUTS! He's a family practitioner so he sees all of us so between my ADD diagnosis, Ethan's ailments and Eli's regular check ups and random colds and such, I feel like I am ALWAYS here!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I have a lot of Christian friends. Which has never, ever been an issue for me. It just doesn't seem to matter, and if it ever comes up, the discussion has always been enlightening, engaging, intellectual. Only a handful of times can I remember that there was some awkwardness, but nothing that couldn't be easily smoothed over. Being a convert, most of my Jewish friends are fairly new friends so I don't have the comfort level with them that I have with many of my other friends and the only time that this poses a problem for me is during the Jewish holidays. Adam and I either spend them with our non-Jewish friends (which is great fun for all of us - I think my friends enjoy experiencing something new and we like sharing our traditions) or we hope to get an invitation from some of our Jewish friends (but that comfort-level thing...we can't just invite ourselves over, even though we really want to!) or we round up the inlaws and try to get together if we aren't scattered all over the country. But mostly we spend them alone. But that is another post for another day...
I have recently begun to regularly read Audrey's mom's blog, Stellan's mom's blog and Noah's mom's blog, and it has opened my eyes up to a different perspective that I never ever considered. These blogs are all written by women who have a beautiful relationship with Jesus, who speak about him with amazing passion and have given theirselves to him out of deep love and reverance. As I've said before in my blog, I am inspired by their faith, by their deep love for it and even their strong convictions. Anyhow, the perspective that has been introduced to me is that my non-Jesus believer status is considered "wrong" to some people. (Duh...I don't know why that didn't dawn on me before!) But, understandably, this is a wee bit hard for me to swallow. Not because I'm worried that someone thinks I'm wrong, but...well, faith, in my opinion, isn't something that can be wrong or right. I think there is a very thin line that separates disagreeing with someone and flat out thinking they are wrong.
(Please note: I do not personally know any of the women whose blogs I mentioned. I have only exchanged a few emails with Stellan's mom and it wasn't a "deep" discussion. When I say "me", and "I" in respect to their blogs, I mean a non-Christian. I am, perhaps wrongly, using their views as a general interpretation of how other Christians feel about non-Christians, but I am grateful that they shared their views because it opened up a whole new perspective for me, one that I had never, ever considered. So I'm not generalizing in a bad way...just more in a "Wow, didn't know that's how some people see some people who don't believe that Jesus is their savior" way. I am not offended by what they have shared, and I am hoping not to offend anyone with what I am sharing).
Of coure, I understand that you sign up for your faith with the understanding that it is what you believe to be true. But I don't think that means that everyone else who doesn't share your same faith is wrong. And I think there's a big difference between believing in your own religion and believing that everyone else who has a different viewpoint is wrong. Afterall, how can any of us be so sure? I can't difinitively say that I am 100% sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my Jewish faith is the universe's truth. How can I be? There is not one single person on this earth who can prove to me that what I believe is true or isn't true. There is also not one single person on this earth who can prove to Christians that what they believe is true or isn't true. Please note: for the purposes of this post, I'm just comparing Jews and Christians, not for any other reason other than having been raised Catholic and choosing later to become Jewish, that Christianity and Judaism are the only faiths that I feel I can speak with some authority about. And I use the term "authority" VERY loosely.
As far as being able to prove right or wrong, true or false...I guess I'm thinking in terms of Jesus, and specifically whether or not he was the son of G-d, was/is the Messiah and is the key to salvation. Sure, there are "proof texts" in the Bible that Christians say prove he was the Messiah. But, Jews use the very same Bible to prove that he wasn't the Messiah. There's just too much that's up for debate...there are too many gray areas for me to be comfortable telling someone "I am most definitely right and you are most definitely wrong and that means I am living a good life and you are living a sad life and there is nothing up for discussion". I simply can't do that. I can't close my mind off that way, even if it means admitting the imperfections of my own faith.
One of the things that I adore about Judaism is that it is okay to question your faith, and not only is this questioning accepted, but expected. In fact, the term Israel means G-d wrestler. I love that!
I guess this sort of (sort of not?) leads into answering the question "Where did the Bible come from?". Do I believe that G-d gave Moses the entire Torah (first five books of the Bible), that the Bible is comprised of G-d's EXACT words? Not really. Do I believe that the Bible was divinely inspired? Absolutely. Do I believe the Moses had a huge hand in it? Definitely. I think that there were only a handful of people who could read and write running around the foothills of Mt. Sinai but that they had this beautiful inspiration from Moses, who was divinely inspired by G-d, to write all of these wonderful and amazing things down. And that they helped write them down. And then argued with each other about what they wrote. I (in my humble opinion) think this is why there are two stories of creation in Genesis. I am reading a fantastic book called "Don't Know Much About the Bible" that has a chapter that talks about the Bible's "authors". It is a great read and I highly recommend it.
I love to share my views on my faith and I love to learn about other faiths, religions and traditions. I do not share my views in order to make anyone agree with me, to question their own faith, feel the need to pray for me, or otherwise. This is simply something I'm passionate about it and I share everything else here, so why not this?
Monday, August 18, 2008
The bad habit I'm trying to kick currently is snapping. I'm Jen and I'm a snapper. Which usually leads to some sort of raised voice or yelling...which usually leads to some other ugliness. And I'm over it. And my husband is over it. And Ethan is probably over it too (though, Adam bears the brunt of my snappiness, unfortunately - or fortunately, depending how you shake it).
I KNOW that my first reaction is almost always an over-reaction or at the least, not the reaction suitable for the type of conclusion I usually draw once I've sat on something for a bit. So if I know this about myself, why won't I just keep my mouth shut for a while and give myself the freedom to toss around whatever thoughts are in my tightly wound little head? This is my work for the week.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I began this journey because I fell in love with a Jew. I have chosen to continue this journey because I have fallen in love with Judaism. The exact point at which I decided that “Yes, I want to become Jewish.” is unknown even to me, yet it is a decision that was made, unwavering and absolute. It has been a journey along a road that has meandered, in and out of my consciousness, but has paved its way – permanently – into my life, into my heart and has left in its path, a series of tangible and intangible alterations that have forever changed me.
I met my husband, Adam, in college, shortly after I’d convinced myself that the right man for me was not soon to be found. We became inseparable, so much so that when we graduated, we moved in together and shortly after that, found ourselves planning a wedding. I was happy to accommodate Adam and have a Jewish wedding. In fact, I was more than happy to make this accommodation. I’d long ago lost my ties to the Catholic church but was eager to have a meaningful, spiritual wedding ceremony.
But I knew I was not ready to begin the conversion process. I knew that if I were to convert in time for our wedding it would be for all of the wrong reasons. I had the foresight to understand that it would be a process wasted and that I would be missing out on a spectacular progression. I was also battling with my thoughts on G-d and often found myself wondering if G-d even existed, not entirely convinced that He did.
The night my son was born, I found myself holding him, staring into the eyes of the greatest miracle I’d ever witnessed, not anticipating the ferocity with which I loved him. Ethan Joel had been in my life for mere minutes and I already couldn’t imagine how I’d lived my life for so long without him. It was in those few moments that I knew – I knew- that not only did G-d did exist, but that He was present. From that day on, I have never again questioned His existence or His presence.
After the blurry months of early motherhood passed, and I was able to focus on thoughts more sophisticated than calculating how many ounces of formula Ethan had that day, or how long it had been since I’d changed his diaper, I began to ponder about how I would raise this child. I knew how to care for him and meet his needs, but I wondered how I would nurture him. I wanted him to have a foundation from which he could build his own life. I wanted him to have a framework from which he could derive his decisions. I wanted him to have guidelines against which he could measure his actions. I knew he could not have this without some major adjustments in our life.
For this foundation, this framework, for these guidelines I was seeking, I turned to Judaism. A strong faith, a sense of religious and cultural identity was something I’d lacked in my own childhood and it was something I hoped to provide to my son and to share with my new family. I wasn’t convinced that Judaism was the answer, but I was convinced it was worth a shot.
Adam and I set about to find a Rabbi to supervise my conversion. Our search came up with no front runners and no close seconds. Discouraged, but not beaten, I got my hands on any books I could find about the conversion process, about Judaism. I read them voraciously. And I decided to take a class – Intro to Judaism 101 – taught by Rabbi Norry. I came to cherish my Thursday night classes, and sat each week, utterly fascinated, writing notes just as quickly as my hands could get the words on paper. On the ride home, I would call Adam, eager to share what I’d learned. And over time, to my surprise and delight, I got it. It made sense. I realized that this is what I’d been missing in my life.
And it is over the past year, that I have been uncovering, along with Rabbi Norry, exactly what the ‘this’ is. It is over the past year that a very interesting – and wonderful – change has taken place in my life, in my family’s lives. I have followed my heart throughout every step of this journey and it is my heart that has led me to this moment. The progression of my journey to Judaism has been somewhat unmapped but has occurred at its own perfect pace, as if taking on a direction all its own.
I do not remember the day I stopped referring to Jewish people as “Jews” and instead began referring to Jews as “we” or “us”. I do not remember the day that “Shabbat Shalom” rolled off my tongue as if I had been using that greeting with friends my whole life. I do not remember the day that Adam and I stopped discussing going to Shul on Shabbos morning and just went, no discussion required. I do not remember those days, but I feel their significance, as it is just those sorts of moments that have allowed me to identify myself not just as a student of Judaism, but as a Jew.
Written in November 2005
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
When we got home, I cranked up some music really loud and Ethan, Eli and I danced (well, Eli jumped in his jumper more than danced) and sang at the top of our lungs. Well, I sang really...Ethan didn't know any of the words. Ethan may be the only person who has ever heard me sing that loud (and its a good thing, too, though I worry about what effect listening to my "singing" voice will have on the poor dear). But it was great fun and it was a very "Gilmore Girls" moment. But a small shadow cast itself in an unexpected way and brought up some unhappy (and apparently pushed away - or so I thought) memories.
Bon Jovi's song You Want to Make a Memory came on. And it is a song I love and have listened to A LOT. Last year, when Adam was having his heart problems, it was the song I listened to when I finally let myself come undone. Being smack in the middle of my pregnancy and getting ready to stand by my husband's side as he prepared to have open heart surgery was not my idea of fun and clearly and obviously not Adam's idea of fun, either. Not only wasn't it our idea of fun, it scared me out of my mind.
Instead of running around and picking out baby furniture, nursery bedding, itty bitty jammies and clothes, we were running all over town interviewing cardio-thorassic surgeons. Each and every time I walked into a medical office, I looked down at my growing belly with my sweet baby tumbling inside and then looked at my handsome, young, otherwise healthy husband and felt that I was in a dream or at least someone else's life. I ignored the inquisitive looks from all the other patients in the waiting rooms...most of them much older than us. I ignored the half-smiles of pity. I just breathed and trudged through.
I kept so much of this experience to myself. None of my friends my age, no one in my family, and most especially, Adam, wanted to hear my darkest, deepest fears about what this surgery could mean to me. And who could blame them? I wouldn't want one of my young friends to ask me, "What if my husband dies?". I wouldn't want to look them in the eye knowing that the question they were asking me was a very real possibility for them.
And whenever I started to fall apart, my dear and amazing friends would do their best to piece me back together. Told me he'd be fine. And I knew the chances of him being fine were more than in our favor. But there was more to it that simply surviving open heart surgery. It was the risk of cognitive changes. The risk of infection. The risk of not making a full recovery. The risk of the psychological effects being more than I could handle. Not to mention that I'd be seven months pregnant when they'd be sawing his chest open. I NEEDED my husband to be there. To be FULLY present. And he wouldn't be. I'd had trouble getting pregnant. After losing a baby in June 2006, it took us almost a full year to get pregnant again and I really wanted to take the time to enjoy the pregnancy. But in the end I decided it was just a pregnancy...a means to an end, a way to get our beautiful son, Eli, who I could enjoy tremendously when he was here with us. No, I didn't enjoy it the way I dreamed I would. But that's okay. I gave up on enjoying it as soon as I learned that we had bigger issues to deal with. Now that's not to say I didn't love watching my tummy swell, didn't love feeling each kick and tumble. But it was different. I didn't feel like "we" were pregnant, I just felt like Eli was MY baby and I was experiencing this pregnancy in a vacuum. Just me and Eli, going through this sort of mommy-baby worm hole while the rest of my life carried on without me, but at the same time, I spent very little time thinking about being pregnant and dreaming about the days of his babyhood. They would surely be here whether I thought about them or not, and for now, I was trying to breathe.
It was interesting to see the ways my prayers changed during this time. I prayed that he'd live. I prayed that he'd be strong enough to be in the delivery room when Eli was born. I prayed that he wouldn't be scared. That I wouldn't be scared. I prayed that he wouldn't need surgery. Then I prayed for wisdom so that we could make sound decisions regarding the timing of his surgery, the hospital for his surgery, the type of surgery he would have (robotic or good old fashioned slicing), the surgeon who would perform the surgery. I prayed that his recovery would be as quick as the doctors were promising. I prayed for strength. I prayed that my two babies would still have a daddy at the end of this. I prayed that the urge to run away would stop. I prayed that I would be patient with people who told me, "Oh, he'll be fine." And in the end, they were right. He WAS fine. But not one person I knew wanted to trade lives with me during those few months.
So, yes, I kept most of this to myself. Julie asked me one day if I was scared. "I'm terrified," I answered. And I think that was about as much as I showed my fear to anyone. I cried out of frustration with the situation - my friends saw that part. I cried out of being exhausted - anyone who cared to could join my pity party. I cried because I knew that the man Adam was to me would be gone for a few months while he got better, if he got better. I discussed the details of his condition CONSTANTLY. I think all my friends now have enough knowledge to perform the surgery themselves. But I don't think I ever showed my deep, dark, fear. That my husband would either die or be changed forever.
My car was my favorite place to seek the solace of my tears. I turned up the radio really loud to drown out the sounds of my sobs. And I listened to Bon Jovi talking about making memories. In the days leading up to the surgery and the many days after, Bon Jovi shouldered the weight of my tears. Oh sure, I let loose with friends sometimes, with my mom a couple of times maybe...even with Adam. But not like I did in my car.
In the driveway, after grocery shopping
"Hello again, its you and me.
Kinda like it always used to be.
Sippin' wine, killin' time.
Tryin' to solve life's mysteries."
Willing myself to drive back to my house, not somewhere else, far, far, away
"How's your life? It's been a while.
G-d its good to see you smile.
I see you reachin' for your keys,
Lookin' for a reason not to leave."
On the way to the hospital
"If you don't know if you should stay,
If you don't say what's your mind,
Baby just breathe
There's nowhere else tonight we should be.
You wanna make a memory?"
On the way home from the hospital
"If you go now, I'll understand.
If you stay, hey, I got a plan.
You wanna make a memory?
You wanna steal a piece of time?
You can sing the melody to me,
And I could write a couple lines.
You wanna make a memory?"
Perhaps, I'm learning, I should've let some of this out while it was happening so that almost a year later, I wasn't still moving it around in my mind, batting it back and forth, spending at tremendous time vascillating between thinking that I am over dramatizing it or that I'm not grasping the seriousness of it.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Well, tonight, it seems that Ethan may have G-d on his mind too.
We had the following conversation:
There was a pretty sunset tonight as Adam, Ethan and I ate dinner outside (Eli was soundly sleeping in his little crib). I didn't say anything about the sunset, but thought to myself that it was nice...not spectacular, but really, really nice.
Ethan pipes up and and says, "I'm thinking about that."
Me: "Thinking about what?"
Ethan: "That." Points in the direction of the sunset.
Me: "What are you thinking about that?"
Ethan: "That it is so nice. And so so pretty."
Me: "Wow, Ethan. You're right! It is great that you noticed!"
Ethan: "Wasn't that nice of me to say? Won't G-d be happy? Didn't that make his heart happy that I said how pretty the sunset is?"
Me: "Well, it WILL make him happy." Did someone tell you that G-d made the sunset?"
Ethan: "No. No one told me that. But G-d does make the sunset. And it is pretty and so nice."
How do you like that?
What amazes me most about these women is their unbelievable faith in G-d. And their G-d is a bit different from mine. They have a deep, unbridled love for Jesus and his role as their Lord. Now, being, Jewish, this is obviously quite different from my own faith, but I am still inspired by their deep, deep love for their faith and the role that it plays in their life. I have been on a bit of a faith search myself...I mean, I've found my faith, I'm not looking for it, but what I'm looking for is a way to integrate it in my life much more than I have. I have not been to Shabbat services in more than a month. And as you can see, it is Saturday (Shabbat), and here I am...on my COMPUTER no less!...so clearly, I have a lot of work to do. I wouldn't say I'm in a faith crisis...I love my Jewish faith...but I suppose what I am is just simply lazy. I know the framework with which I need to live my life in order for it to be a Jewish life and I simply am not choosing to follow it.
I think this always happens for me at some point in the summer. I know I'm not alone because our shul empties out in the summer, the Tot Shabbat program takes a break from meeting, and the calendar isn't full of events and classes. But that doesn't make it okay. And it certainly isn't okay with me. And perhaps it is no coincidence that this all happens leading up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur...I always feel a renewed sense of committment when we honor and observe these most serious of holy days...when we atone for our sins and greet a new Jewish year. I think that this year in particular, I will be spending a lot of time leading up to these days thinking about how I can be a better Jew and give myself the beautiful gift of a Jewish life. Though it isn't something that should ebb and flow, it seemingly does for me, and that is something that I desperately want to change. I am making the decision to change that and I will share here what that means and what transpires as I take the steps toward a deeper committment to a Jewish life.