Saturday, August 30, 2008

Choosing not to choose?

I recently recieved a copy of Jewish publication arrives in my mailbox at very unpredictable and irregular intervals. I know it doesn't get delivered monthly, or even every other month, but I feel like I get it more than once or twice a year. I don't really know. Maybe it only comes once a year. Hm. Anyhow, I clearly have forgotten to take my Adderall today. But, all I know is I just find it every now and again, very unexpectedly. I love to read anything that is offered from a Jewish perspective, but I gotta say...this publication really stinks. They typically fall into one of several categories: the contrived category, the boring category, or interesting-topic-but-article-fails-to-actually-follow-said-topic-and-therefore-loses-me-half-way-through category. However, after reading a certain article/letter this afternoon, I realized I need to create a new category: the really-bad-articles-that-are-intellectually-dishonest-and-make-me-bristle category.

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

All that glitters

So I just peeked at my Zebras and Mezuzahs post...and I got chills looking at my photos of the mezuzot that we hung up. Look at that second picture. Remember I was talking about the "atmosphere" of the door being indescribable...well, that picture describes it perfectly! See that blurry light at the top right of the picture...don't worry, I don't think it is the face of G-d or Moses or the great Rabbi from beyond or anything...but see how it sort of makes the picture seem dreamy and hazy and cozy and calm? Well, that's how I felt after I hung it up. Perhaps it is recognizing a familiar symbol and understanding all that it represents...or knowing that just by this simple act I am saying "I'm Jewish. I want you to know it, too." I don't know. But I love it.

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

Day 1 of Eli and Mommy's Big Adventure

Double ear infection=grounded baby (as in grounded from flying) - Ear infection was the final word from the good doctor yesterday and there is no way I am taking a baby with an ear infection on a plane.

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 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

Foiled plans

I've been running around like crazy doing laundry, getting out suitcases, gathering up favorite toys and lovies, all in preparation for our trip to NY. I sort of hit a wall with the packing and preparation and was looking at a loooooong night ahead, but seems like it won't be neccessary anyway. Our beloved sitter called me home this morning because Eli wasn't acting like himself. Sure enough, he's running a fever. So, I'm sitting in the parking lot of the doctor's office since I suspect that the ear infection he had on our trip to Boston never quite cleared up. Crumbers!

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

Zebras and Mezuzahs

We have lived in our house for more than a year. About once a month, Adam and I say, "Gee. We need to hang up our mezuzot. Yep. Let's get on that." know where this is going. It has been one of those things that has been hanging over our heads that we just didn't make a priority. And embarrassing things of all embarrassing Eli's bris, our beloved Rabbi noticed. And not only that, he mentioned our missing mezuzah. I mean, really, people. It does not get much worse that that. Truly it does not. And let's see. Eli was born in January. Huh. Still no mezuzah hanging on the door.

For those of you that are losing me, I'm guessing that you'd like to know what a mezuzah (plural=mezuzot) is! Basically, it is a little hollow, rectangular box that hangs on the inside of the door jamb. The box is hollow because it holds a small piece of parchment (klaf) that has a biblical reference to the mezuzah written on it. According to Anita Diamant's Living a Jewish Life, "The words come from the book of Deuteronomy: 'Write these words upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates'." What words, you ask? The Shema, which is a prayer that is said first thing in the morning and at night before going to bed. The Shema (below) is also written on the parchment. The importance of this prayer lies in the fact that it sums up the heart of Judaism in just a few short lines. For lack of better words, it is a mission statement for the Jews.

Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
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.

So, anywho, despite the fact that G-d has commanded this of me, no mezuzah/mezuzahs/mezuzot on any door of my home. Not good.
Until Friday.

Ethan comes out to see me where I was sneaking some reading time on the deck while Eli napped. He says, "You know those zebra things that go on doors? They go straight out like this. (demonstrates a 'zebra' by sticking his arm out straight in front of him). And they have one Hebrew letter on them? Do we have any of those? You know, those things?"
I think for a moment. And then I get a big, wide smile on my face. "You mean a mezuzah!?"

Ethan says, "Yeah!"

I tell him, in fact we do have several of them, but that, shamefully, none of them are hung up. And I ask him if he would like to help me hang them up and he said he would like to do that with a real hammer. Sure...well, we can work out the details as we go.

So, we set off into the garage to track down a hammer and nails. And if you know my husband and know how "organized" he is, finding his tools is an amazing feat in itself. Amazingly, I find them almost right away and Ethan and I were off, door to door (literally), happily hanging mezuzot!

Having a mezuzah on your door can serve many purposes. They are a reminder of G-d's presence and are an indication that a Jewish family lives in the house. Those are my favorite meanings. But having a mezuzah can also be a reminder for peace, a way of marking the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish space or a good luck charm. I think that each of these concepts are so very beautiful and I think that, truly, a mezuzah represents all of these ideas and works in some sort of harmonious combination to achieve this. It's strange...the "atmosphere" of the door literally changes when you hang one of these babies up. I can't describe it, yet the change is palpable.
Here are two of the finished products. And yes, they are supposed to be tilted. And yes, you are supposed to put them on every door, except bathroom and closet doors. So, we have four (only two pictured here) down...a few more to go!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A weighty issue

I've been reading a book called "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus." Not exactly the stuff that beach books are made of, but it certainly has been an interesting read. And to be fair, when I'm finished, I plan on reading "Case for Christ" know, get some nice, well-rounded viewpoints. Plus, I enjoy light reading. (ha!)

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 thing about breaking bad habits

The bad thing about breaking bad habits is that you whatever habit you set out to break is because you KNOW better. You know you will be better off, happier, lighter, without [insert bad habit here]. But for some reason the connection between your brain and the rest of you doesn't happen. Amazingly frustrating.

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

Why did I choose to be Jewish?

Some of you may have already read this, but some of you haven't and I wanted to share this with you. My Jewish faith has been on my mind so much lately and I wanted to share with you why I chose this life.

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

Who are you!?

Okay, I have had 43 visitors since I've put the counter on my who are you!? I would love to hear from you, so please make comments as you see fit and share some of YOUR insights with me!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I wouldn't have missed the dance

Ethan had his first day of pre-K today. Does this mean he is officially a big boy? I surely hope not!

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

Is he reading my mind?

I've started to touch a bit upon my quest for a deeper faith. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about G-d, talking to G-d, asking Him to talk to me...a LOT of time. Wondering how I can incorporate Him into my life a bit better.

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?

Being faithful to faith

In one of my earlier posts this week, I mentioned that I've been spending a lot of time reading a few blogs. I've posted them recently (they are the first three that are listed in the sidebar under the heading "blogs I'm reading) . I wish I could say they were happy and uplifting...and in a way, they are...but two of the blog writers are women who have lost their precious infants and the other writer is a woman who is in the hospital and literally fighting for her unborn baby's life right now. Not exactly the stuff that coffee talk is made of (as I sit here, guiltily sipping my coffee while my own sweet baby naps happily in his crib).

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! 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.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm sorry but I just have to say

...that I have the two most adorable children that I have ever laid eyes on. Don't you agree? I mean, really....

But as addicting as Eli's little cheeks are and as charming as Ethan can be, Adam and I managed to tear ourselves away from them long enough today to hit the local water park. We had a BLAST! We have taken Ethan there so many times and whenever we do, we always longingly look at the "big kid" slides while we head off to the kiddie park. So today, we did all the crazy, scary (well, Adam didn't think they were scary) slides that we always want to do but never can. The day was rounded out by some quiet time lounging by the wave pool. A great way to beat the heat, that's for sure. And by the way, adjusting to this oppressive heat in Hotlanta has not been fun after being spoiled by the warm sun and cool sea breezes of New England for the past three weeks.
Just another reminder that vacation is over, summer is ending and "real life" is beginning again. Only this year, it seems more "final". Ethan is in pre-K this year, which means he goes every single more lazy days spent in our jammies until more lounging around with breakfast for three hours while playing blocks and surfing the more seemingly endless days spent at the pool with more late, extended playdates because the morning was so fun and the afternoon was empty and Julie and I just kept chatting and chatting (sometimes over a beer or wine)...Nope, it is full-on reality from here on out.
My sacred, sacred days of having nothing to do except play with Ethan are over! And I do mean sacred. I will forever cherish our Wednesday mornings spent at music class followed by a liesurely lunch a Doc Green's where I watched and listened as Ethan discovered the world; our trips to the mall to get a pretzel and play on the rides; our long-lasting trips to Target because we simply had nothing else better to do; picnics at the duck pond; movie matinees; endless swinging at the park; puttering around Publix pondering what to make for dinner long after I should've had dinner on the table;
My most dear and treasured memories of my times with Ethan are playing over and over in my head. A never-ending loop of my mind's snapshots and videos of days filled with love and emotion and learning and faltering. What a ride it has been. And I know our fun is far from over and I'm sure some would say it has just begun and am I ever looking forward to seeing the boy the that Ethan is becoming emerge...but I know it is time I will never, ever get is time that has passed and will stay exactly that, in the past. And though I have Eli and can do it all again with a new little, wonderful, sweet person, it just won't be the same. I will still have a schedule to stick to...a definite time to be out of the house to make the run to school and a definite time to be back in the car to run back to school. There will be no more endless stretches of hours and hours in front of us. We shared our innocence of being a first time mom and a first time son together. It was us against everyone else. My eternal sidekick. The sacredness of those hours and days spent together will always mean more than the world to me. I will never forget them and will always love every minute I spent playing with that sweet little boy, my oldest son, Ethan.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly

What is it about spending time with your family makes you see the good, the bad and the ugly in yourself? I had such an amazing time visiting my grandparents house and cramming into their tiny beach house with my two boys, my husband, my aunt, my cousin and my mom...but there was something that was admittedly bittersweet about it for me. Perhaps the close quarters allowed me these glimpses of parts of my family members that I see in myself but don't always (or CAN'T always) see. I look at my mom, and though I love her dearly, there are parts of her that I see in myself that I wish were different (and I'm sure there are more than a few of my traits that she sees in my that she wishes she could change and maybe even a couple that she wished she had not passed along through the gene pool!).

As I am dealing with my ADD, I am beginning to take a careful inventory of myself and the words I choose to say, the behaviors I choose to exhibit, the moods I get in, the thoughts I think and contrast all these pieces against who I WISH I was, how I WISH I acted. This week offered me some unexpected food for thought. Don't misread me, I had a blast and love my family dearly, but spending so much time with them sort of allowed me to see a mirror image of myself in some ways, though in other ways, I am always amazed at how we can all be so different despite being related. I guess I had a birds' eye view of what makes me tick, and the fact that I was seeking this perspective allowed me to have it. I hope I don't offend any of my family members that read this, it certainly isn't my intention, but there's something about being near to your roots that kind of let you peel away another layer of yourself and say "aha". I guess the best way to describe it is that I saw a roomful of ME interacting with a roomful of ME...when I heard my grandmother and mother bickering, er, talking, I really heard me and my mother talking or more specifically, ME talking to ME. Yes, that's a better way to put what I'm trying to say...and then I thought..."Man...when I'm 70, am I still going to be doing the same things (whether good or bad) I'm doing at 30? It looks like the answer is yes." And that bothered me a bit. I guess I was hoping that I might become this perfect version of me by the time I grow old and these weeks sort of served to point out to me that perhaps that won't be the case. I know I have many weaknesses (and to be fair, I guess we all do) but I thought they would smooth over after many years, but unless I start to make some changes NOW, it looks like I will be the same ME...only older.

If only...

...I could keep up with writing my blog the way I keep up with reading other people's is a sickness, I tell you!

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to New England for the past three weeks. I took both boys on the plane solo (impressive, no?). The trip up was a little rough...Ethan was a prince but Eli, unbeknownst to me, had the beginnings of a double ear infection was was much more than a weary traveler...So lucky me got to check out the local ER! But 48 hours later and more than a few doses of Amoxicillin, he was back in action...though his sleep pattern was altered for the rest of the trip. Not good. I think I may never catch up on all the sleep I lost!

We played on the beach, ate tons of seafood (had lobster and steamers THREE times!!!), hit the Boston Children's Museum, and lots of other fun stuff. The highlight was perhaps our trip to Storyland (though it was a bit soggy due to the downpours...but we were undaunted and slapped on our rain gear and plodded through the park happily). Storyland is the home of some of my happiest childhood memories. My grandparents took my mother and two aunts there, then me and my cousin, Michael, and now I am taking my boys. We went, religiously, every summer (taking breaks when both me and Michael were too old, of course). Even as a thirty-year-old, I still get goose bumps and get jumpy in my seat when we enter the town of North Conway. I know that we are getting close! I love to see all the sites that are EXACTLY the way I remember them from twenty years ago. Storyland has improved yet still has managed to maintain its historical integrity and I LOVE that about that place. I will edit later and add photos so you can see what fun we had.

Michael was with us and I think the two of us maybe had the most fun of all. We left the kids with my mom and Susan and ran off on more than a few occasions to go on the water ride, the flume ride and whatever else we happened to see that reminded us of fun times. Adam also came with us so it was so special for me to finally show him this crazy place I'd been talking about for years.

Being able to take my boys to a place that I loved as a young girl is indescribable. I loved being able to see Ethan's reactions to things, see him riding on the very same rides that I used to have so much fun on. This tradition is so rich in my memory and I feel so lucky to offer Ethan and Eli the same sweet memories for themselves. Perhaps they will even take their kids there. Grandpa is still able to tear all around the place...taking pictures and videos the same way he always did!