Thursday, August 31, 2006

So there's this thing I've discovered from Wendy - "Thursday 13." You basically make up your own list of 13 things, and blog about it on Thursdays (duh). I don't know how I'll be able to think up 13 things about anything, much less every Thursday. But what the heck - I'll give it a go.

13 things going on in my life right now:

1. Changing Srulik's p00py diaper as soon as I'm done nursing Zalman.
2. Figuring out how to handle Rivky's less-than-ideal kindergarten classroom.
3. Trying to get our neighbors to come for shabbos lunch.
4. Getting Srulik's upsherinish invitations out.
5. Finishing up my daily Chitas (behind by 2 days).
6. Journaling in my 60 Days book (Also 2 days behind).
7. Switching laundry from washer to dryer ASAP.
8. Making/returning lots of phone calls.
9. Getting more clothes for my not-back-to-pre-preg-weight body.
10. Staying on top of someone so I can learn some sichos of the Rebbe with her.
11. Staying on top of someone else to start an EMETT group with her.
12. Putting lots of Mederma on Rivky's face so the scratches from Srulik don't scar.
13. Thinking of a Rosh Hashana menu.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
It's All Good.

Sometimes, a Jew will bless another with the blessing of "Only revealed good."

We are supposed to believe that "nothing evil comes from heaven," - that things that seem the darkest are suffused with the greatest light. Often, we cannot see this with our simple, earthly eyes.

In today's portion of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe discusses this. Here is an excerpt, elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg:

The life-force of all things, even those that we perceive as evil, as found within its source is truly good. In fact, it is such a lofty manner of good that it remains faithful to its source, and as such is not apprehensible to man as good. In this it differs from the other form of good that is able to descend to so low a level that even mortals can perceive its goodness. This higher form of goodness, because it retains its status at the outset of its revelation, is clothed in this world in a garb of pain and evil, inasmuch as its goodness has yet to be revealed to man…In this spirit, the Alter Rebbe explains the conduct of Nachum Ish Gamzu, whose response to all occurrences was the remark, Gam zu letovah — “This, too, is for the good.” This remark not only meant that an event that seemed to be evil would eventually evolve into good, but that the event itself, by virtue of its source, was good in its present form as well; its inherent goodness would be revealed at some later date.

This is a real toughie. There's so much darkness in the world, yet we must strive to see it as light. Strive to understand that the One who is constantly creating is only creating good.

p.s. Ernesto blew over. Just a little wind and rain, Baruch Hashem. Now that's some revealed goodness!

Monday, August 28, 2006
Ode to a Hurricane.

Señor Ernesto,
Please don't blow our way.
Remember last year?
No power - 15 days!

Tropical Storm,
Please don't get stronger.
We've had our fill of rain
We can take it no longer!

Last year we had a dark house,
We cooked on a camping grill.
We had no air conditioner
And a broken window sill.

We're filling up our water jugs,
and buying extra gas.
We're stocking up on tuna,
And we hope the storm will pass.

G-d bless all our comrades,
Who live in trailer parks.
I hope you find safe haven,
Before Ernesto leaves his mark.

Lord knows I don't miss Brooklyn,
But these hurricanes I hate!
Yet that's the price that we must pay,
To live in the Sunshine State.

Sunday, August 27, 2006
The Way It Is:

Today I went to visit my stepfather's mother. My mom and brother scheduled a visit. I haven't seen her in 10 years. It's Elul, a month of forgiveness - a month of growth and healing. I figured it's the right time to go. She's living with a nurse, more dead than alive. She barely opened her eyes. I looked at her and imagined doing a tahara on her. I know that sounds terrible, but that's where it's at.

My stepfather's sister was there. I found her to be vulgar, which both amused and repulsed me at the same time. The things coming out of her mouth shocked me, I felt assaulted. Then I thought, "Why am I judging her? It's Elul, not the time for negativity." In fact, one of my Elul resolutions is to strive to look upon people with a "good eye." The truth is, she's probably in a lot of pain.

We hung around as Grandma dozed. Then we left. I watched her daughter stroke her hair tenderly and whisper to her - thus redeeming herself in my eyes. I blessed Grandma that she should live until moshiach comes. I gave my step-aunt a Neshek brochure. I told her that Grandma was the first woman I ever saw light shabbos candles.

For that alone I will always be grateful.

Saturday, August 26, 2006
Both Hands.

Growing up as a Reform Jew meant a lot of holocaust education. A lot. I felt, somehow, that the holocaust was the epitome of the Jewish experience. Everything was holocaust awareness. Never Again! Six million! Gas chambers! Nazis! Yellow stars! It got to the point where it made me mad.

Mad because there was never anything else - we were clinging frantically to our genocide, but not renewing ourselves. I'm not saying I don't mourn the holocaust. I grieve for the millions lost, and the future that perished with them. But I hate how it defined my youth, defined my Judaism. It made me turn away from anything holocaust-related.

The other day, in the mail, I got a fundraising package from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Inside were notecards. Notecards? How macabre can you get? Needless to say, it provoked the same response I've always had. But I shuffled through them anyway.

And then I saw him.
The little boy pasted on a cheery, red heart. The back of the card said it was a mother's day greeting. To his mother, he wrote, "My wish can be written in a few words, G-d bless you with both of his hands." Then I started to cry. I cried for that little Jew who felt G-d so tangibly, whose earnest wish was for G-d to bless his mother.

With both hands.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What type of clothes do your kids wear and do you live in an urban area?
My kids wear fabulous hand-me-downs and thrift store gems. The girls wear tights, and cover their elbows and knees. Srulik is well-outfitted from the local clothing gemach (thanks to a buddy who has excellent mazal there). Zalman has been wearing his Carter's gifts from Nana. I live in the 'burbs.
Have you always been Jewish, and if yes, how did come to your current beliefs?
I have always been Jewish. My initial exposure to religious Jews was through a Lubavitcher family when I was 18. Spending time with them helped me in my first, tentative steps towards frumkeit. I also met a very special Sephardic family, and was their frequent guest as well. I went to yeshiva and learned. It didn't happen overnight - it was an evolving process. It still is.
What are some of the things that your beliefs allow and discourage?
Halacha (Jewish law) is a very wide place, so there's lots of things that are "allowed." Judaism discourages things that are against Torah commandments or values. I would also say that Judaism strongly discourages ego.
What do you like best about being Jewish?
Being a "member of the tribe." Seeing other Jews and resonating with the "Hey, we're Jewish!" vibe. Even if it's a total stranger, when you see another Yid, you're home.
How did you choose the names for your children and what do they mean?
All the names of my family have been changed on my blog to maintain anonymity. Their "blog names" are connected to them, though. In real life, all my children are named for deceased family members - as per Ashkenazic Jewish custom.
What was your life like before you were frum?
Hedonistic. Magical. Irresponsible. Curious. Reckless. Fun. Naive. Lonely. Immodest. Free. Trusting. I was stoned a lot.
Do you live in NMB?
Why, you wanna come for shabbos?

Monday, August 21, 2006
Happy Blogiversary!

Belatedly, anyway. My first post was August 18th, 2005.

I wanted a new look in honor of the occasion, so here it is. Hope y'all like it. Yaakov - photoshop and HTML guru - worked very hard.

In honor of the occasion, I wanted to open things up a little. Thus, I am now taking questions from my readers (to be left via comments or email). I know, you all go to sleep at night wondering about my life. How did she become frum? What does she think of Hillary's chances? Paper or plastic? Now's the chance to slake your burning inquiries (limited time offer - void where prohibited).

p.s. I feel sure it is a blogger crime to use the word "blogiversary." At least a misdemeanor.

Sunday, August 20, 2006
The Housewife:

: Rivky is fine. Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

During shabbos lunch, Chaya announced; "I'm not good at sports, I'm a girl." I was startled. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. "Why are you not good at sports?" I asked. "Because I'm a girl," she answered matter-of-factly, as if sports and girls were diametrically opposed. "Girls can be good at sports," I said, "Like golf," Yaakov conceded. "Or swimming!" I rejoined. "You're a fish Chaya, you love to swim." Thus ended the topic of girls and their sporting abilities.

Truthfully, I don't really care so much that she had this idea. I was just startled she had it so young, and I wondered where she picked it up from. Could it be Zalman's clothes? Footballs and baseballs? Trains, trucks and cars? Is she sensing from such a young age that G-d created girls and boys to be different from each other?

I have written before about gender roles, and I believe in them. I'm not one of these ranting femininsts - although I used to be - who thinks women should be able to do everything men do. In fact, we learn in Torah that the hardest labor we had in Egypt is when Pharoah assigned men to do women's work, and women to do men's.

I think the best thing we can do for ourselves as women is to reclaim our femininity. Revel in the things we do best. There's no shame in staying home and taking care of our kids, husbands, and families. I really think a large part of the degeneration of our society is that women have abandoned their vital roles.

I'm not saying women shouldn't work - sometimes there are very valid reasons. Sometimes the mother is the sole supporter of her family. And not every woman is home with youngsters either. But I stopped working the moment I had Chaya (I had my first contraction with her while working overtime). It was never an option to go back. We went into debt, suffered unemployment, struggled at times (and still do). But I have a full time job - my kids.

Now before you call Rush Limbaugh or Dr. Laura (eww) and tell them you found them a new poster girl, I assure you I'm not so conservative. But I'm not telling you why - A girl's gotta have her secrets.

It's part of her Feminine Mystique!

Friday, August 18, 2006

I think it's safe to say - Baruch Hashem - that I'm not sick anymore. I'm very tired, and very weak, but I think it's over.

I feel devastated though. I don't consider myself a wimp, not by any means. I think I have a high threshold for pain and discomfort. But this illness just knocked me out cold. I really feel traumatized from it, physically and spiritually.

The worst of it is that my Rivky is now laying on the couch with a fever. When I was sick, I just said to G-d, please spare Zalman. If someone has to be sick, let it be me. But now it's Rivky. And I can't rally around the Jewish-mother standard anymore. I can't say to G-d; take it from her and give it to me. Because honestly? I don't think I could go through that again.

All I can hope is that it's just a fever, that it will pass, and that the shabbos queen will heal her. Please Hashem - not Rivky too.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chaya had a stomach virus on Friday and shabbos. Srulik had it Monday. Now it's my turn.

Tuesday night I was laying in bed feeling "funny." I laid there for 5 hours with this funny feeling, when I realized that I had a fever. It was all downhill from there.

I cannot tell you how much I've vomited in the past 2 days. Vomiting and diarrhea. The vomiting is the worst. Terrible nausea overcomes me, but nothing comes out. I've had to gag myself like a bulimic teenager to get it out. I've basically stayed in bed the whole time (minus frequent bathroom trips). This is the first time I can sit in front of the computer without wanting to pass out.

I have called out to G-d and my Rebbe, asking them to make it stop. I asked Yaakov to make it stop. Twice I told Yaakov, "I think I need to go to the hospital." I have eaten a total of 10 crackers in the past 48 hours. How I can still be expelling stuff out of my body is a great mystery.

Yaakov has been a real hero, he's stayed home from work to take care of all of us, running to the grocery store to buy me medicine and powerade. Once when I threw it up in my bedside bucket, Yaakov said, "Look honey, it's the blue powerade! We can just pour it right back into the cup!" (How can you not love a man like that?)

Mrs. Stein, the La Leche League Rebbetzin, has been invaluable in telling me what meds I can take. Hearing that I could take ibuprofen was my saving grace. The Imodium did not help, however. Yaakov bought me Emetrol, in "lemon mint" flavor. Lemon mint? "You shoulda seen the other gross flavors they had. Like cherry." Uhhhh...since when does lemon mint take precedence over cherry?

Anyway, I'm not out of the woods with this yet, but I hope it ends very, very soon.

P.S. This post was interrupted by an eventful bathroom trip.

Sunday, August 13, 2006
The Stepfather.

Before shabbos I noticed a yahrzeit candle atop our kitchen ledge. "Who's that for?" I asked. "Your stepfather," Yaakov answered. "Why would I light a candle for him?" I retorted.

I was surprised at how vehement my response was. I didn't realize I still carried around so much anger.

There are so many times I've tried to have peace and closure - times I've screwed up as a parent and said; "Ok, I can relate to you, we're both human and have both made mistakes." I've been to the cemetary and tried to talk things over with you. I even bought a book to help me. It's been 17 years, and I still feel disgust over you. Disgust and contempt.

I hate the vile immodesty you brought into our lives. I hate how you would give everybody in the house the "silent treatment" for days. How you would lord your anger over all of us. I hate how you would yell and be sarcastic. I hate the fact that you were mean to me when I didn't understand things. I hate that you thought it was okay to tell a 6 year old basically everything. I hate the parts of you that have become parts of me. I was relieved when you died, I finally felt free of your tyranny.

But I see now I'm not really free at all.

Thursday, August 10, 2006
Preparation "H"

For uhhh...homeopath.

So I'm talking to her today about this little problem I'm having, my midwife wants me to take an acute remedy for it. Hamamelis, for you homeo-mavens out there. And she's grilling me with all kinds of questions like you can't believe.

Does it hurt? Itch? Burn? Sting? Stabbing sensation? What word describes it best? When do you get the feeling? How is it relieved, through heat or cool? Do you have any other sensations? What about the rest of your body?

Never in my life have I been interrogated so much.

Then she starts getting all psychological on me: Do you like to keep your doors locked at night? Yes, I even check the doors several times to make sure they're locked. Do you like to keep a clean house? Yes, otherwise I feel unsettled. Do you think you're an anxious person?

Do I think I'm an anxious person? Does a bear...nevermind.

All of us.

Look at this gorgeous woman and her baby. The caption said they are Lebanese, and the child was upset over rocket noise.

What first drew me to this picture was the baby - he reminded me of Zalman. Then I looked at the woman's face. Is she a beauty, or what? And then I looked at the "bigger" picture. Aren't I a woman with children? And I'm religious too, I also cover my hair. Okay, not with a hijab, but whatever.

I won't fall into any sappy liberalism, and proffer a mushy-gushy "peace on earth" sentiment. I believe there is evil in the world, and evil should be eradicated. But I'm devastated for the innocent people of Lebanon, for the innocent people of Israel. Because on a certain level, it's not "us and them."

It's all of us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Nobody told me there'd be days like this...

Having another kid has made everything more hectic. Accounting for Zalman's frequent needs (on top of everyone elses') puts a new spin on our already-wacky life. It's hard to get stuff done. Like now Zalman is napping, and I'm thinking; I should be frantically cleaning my house! But since I cannot disappoint you - my few (but faithful) cadre of readers - blog I must.

Yesterday was a banner day. I had to go to my midwife for my 6 week appointment. Chaya and Rivky had no camp, so they were on top of my head all morning. Chaya stands 1 millimeter away from me and grills me with anatomy questions when I'm trying to nurse. Rivky wants this project or that thing when I'm trying to nurse. Everybody has to have food - despite having eaten 20 minutes ago - WHEN I'M TRYING TO NURSE (damn it). I was on a time schedule, had to get to the midwife. Rivky, for the gazillionth time, please put on your tights and shoes!

We finally get out of the house and had the car drama. Rivky dawdles in the car and then takes forever to buckle her car seat. Srulik always plays games about getting buckled in and it's a nightmare. Meanwhile it's 96 degrees outside and I have an infant in the car...

We get to the midwife and it's a closed-door, no-kids-present appointment (I won't fascinate you with the scintillating details). I put all the kids in the play area, but that's not good enough for Srulik. He's kicking the exam room door with his feet. "Mommy, help me with this toy." "Mommy, Rivky's bothering me." "Okay honey," I call from the table, "I'll be with you as soon as I can." soon as the speculum is far, far away from me, I'd be more than thrilled to help you.

Oh, and vampire midwifery-student was there. She had to stick my finger for blood. I figured, lightning doesn't strike twice, right? So she draws the blood and starts draining my finger into this little plastic tab. It had to go into a little machine, and the blood had to land inside a depression in the plastic. So she's squeezing the life out of me, laughing and smiling all the while. "Jeez, I can't seem to get the blood in the well! Don't worry Maven, you've got plenty of blood here. We'll get it." She didn't get it.
Guess which finger she stuck? The one I wanted to stick at her. "I'm really sorry, that's never happened to me before." Like hell! I thought - It happened 4 months ago when you stuck my arm twice, freakazoid! And you said the same thing then!

After the appointment I had to feed Zalman. Other kids arrived. It became a party I couldn't referee. Kids throwing balls, running everywhere. I looked at my clock and thought, Dear Lord. I have to take these hyper kids home and then get them out again for the upsherinish we're going to tonight? I have to go through the whole car drama again? I could not endure the thought. So I parked myself on the couch and decided to drive straight to the upsherinish from the birthing center. I didn't ask the staff if they minded that we were staying - I wasn't interested in their answer. I turned on videos for them that we don't have at home. I notice that Elmo always refers to himself in third person. "Elmo wants to be your friend." Is that normal? I also turned on a Strawberry Shortcake video, which thrilled Chaya 'til no end. I heard someone on the video say, "Something's rotten in Berry Land." A reference to Hamlet?

Then the rains came. And didn't stop. It was 5:30, we had to go, we'd been there for three (yes, three!) hours already. I left the kids inside and waded out to my car in the flooded parking lot. My sandals and stockings were drenched. I pulled the car around, got everybody in (with drama, of course). Then Zalman decides to scream. The whole ride home. With heavy traffic.

But the good news is, my feet dried on the trip. And the upsherinish was a blast! (No Rivky, you cannot have a third cup of soda.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Uber Nerds.

So we finally got the new cell phone plan, and with it, new phones!

Yaakov figured out how to download
Star Wars music for ring tones. He wants his to be the "Imperial March", the haunting music played when Darth Vader first enters the rebel starship. Why he wants scary Vader music is beyond me. He's a nerd.

I, on the other hand, want the music from the Mos Eisley Cantina (think weird aliens playing weird horns).

What a shidduch.

Sunday, August 06, 2006
Excuse me, are you Jewish?

Interestingly enough, this shabbos I learned that the word "neshek," in hebrew, means weapon. I never knew this. Neshek is also the acronym for "Neiros Shabbos Kodesh," holy shabbos candles. When a woman lights her shabbos candles, they become a weapon against the spiritual and physical enemies of the Jewish people.

I realized it had been a really long time since I'd approached a woman and asked her if she lit shabbos candles. And with things being as they are, we need all the mitzvos we can get.

Today, in Barnes and Noble, I heard some Israeli ladies yakking away. "Ask them!" I demanded. "I can't," I answered. "They don't want to be bothered with religion. I'm too nervous, anyway." I walked away. "You must!" I turned back. I asked. They said they lit - and I was glad.

Guess what book I bought?

Friday, August 04, 2006
5 minutes to shabbos....

My 93-year old grandfather has pneumonia. He sounds dispirited and tired. It makes me nervous.

Please have him in your prayers - Tzvi Hirsch ben Malka - for a refuah shleimah.

Thank you.

A guten erev shabbos.

Thursday, August 03, 2006
Tisha B'Av Haikus

A day of mourning
The Beis HaMikdash destroyed
Cry for the Temple.

No food/drink today
We sit on stools, canvas shoes
Affliction, each year.

Ad Mosai, we say -
Until when, Moshiach comes?
Forever we wait.

Together, we Jews
Must rise up and sing to G-d
Pray, hope,

Teshuva, repent
Return to our Jewish ways
Moshiach arrives!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Spin Doctors.

...and I'm not referring to the 90's jam-band. I'm talking about the media.

What's the spin? Bad, bad Israel. Israelis are baby killers! Israel is inhumane! Israel is firing on civillians!

Take Qana, for example. Israel bombarded them with leaflets and radio time. "We're coming, GET OUT!" One woman said, "We couldn't afford the cab fare to leave." Okay, I buy that. But Hezbollah was right there. They couldn't cough up a couple of bucks to get the civillians out? They have money to build schools and buy rockets...

I noticed the media didn't report that Hezbollah put itself in a civillian population.
That's where Hezbollah chose to set up camp. Where they were firing rockets from. I mourn the mothers and children who were killed at Qana, but I blame Hezbollah. They hide behind women and children, and point the finger at Israel when they're dead.

And another thing. Hasn't Hezbollah been firing on Israeli civillians? Like, every single day? You don't hear about it, because it's bad, bad Israel, and nice, nice Lebanon. Israelis have been in bunkers for weeks! Israel hit Qana in an attempt to strike Hezbollah - it was a mistake to hit the building. It's never been a mistake when Hezbollah fires onto civillians.

I'm tired of the media spin showing one side, showing Israel as the bad guys. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and have been terrorizing Israel for years.

I hope Israel kicks their ass.

My Photo Name: Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Maven
Location: Chutz l'aretz - Outside of Brooklyn

fancymaven at gmail dot com