Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Here, kitty kitty...

It's happening.

I'm starting to hate my sheitl.

It happens every time, and I suspect with every woman. There comes a point where the wig on our head ceases to be a wig, and morphs into a cat.

When this phenomenon occurs, it doesn't matter how many compliments we get on it. We hate it. We look at ourselves critically in our mirrors, dreaming of our next look (mine will be wavy). When we purchase the next wig, the current one is relegated to the back of the closet (never to be heard from again).

When I start feeling this way, I resent being frum. And this is a feeling I have to deal with, because honey, wigs are expensive.

p.s. Yaakov walked in while I was writing this and said, "Oh no..."

Monday, May 28, 2007
Keepin' it Real...

My friend Rochel and I were discussing how online communication can be flat. "Flat" meaning that you can't be sure of the writer's intent. She gave me a great example:

Once, Rochel left a message on my answering machine about the blog. I emailed her that the blog is private, and not to leave messages about it. I didn't want my kids to hear. I signed off "Lovingly, Maven." She said if I hadn't used "lovingly," she would have thought I was upset or angry. And the funny thing is, I totally wasn't. When she told me this, I felt sad for causing her any discomfort. Sometimes the typed word, devoid of a smile and a gentle voice, can take on unintended meaning.

Which leads me to my point: Schvartze. Remember that? Many of you were displeased with my choice of words, and let me know. I wasn't planning on justifying myself, I didn't feel the need. Talking to Rochel made me change my mind.

Rochel felt the word was perjorative. "If you grew up speaking yiddish, and used the word in a yiddish conversation, then it makes sense. But to use the yiddish word on it's own (in an english conversation) has connotations."
I could see where she was coming from.

Today, Rochel and I met at the playground. Afterwards, she said, "Did you see the black boy our kids were playing with? He was only two and he was huge!" And then it all clicked. Just like that. I turned to her and said, "You know, I can see how if you said "schvartze," it would have changed the whole thing."

So there you go.

p.s. "Keepin' it Real" is a program on the talk radio I sometimes listen to.

Sunday, May 27, 2007
Does this ever happen to you?

I get sebaceous cysts on my face sometimes. Just that sentence alone grosses me out! But let me explain:

I get these bumps, usually near my lower lip, indicating something is going on at a sub-dermal level. They aren't noticable to anyone but me. The area hurts, and is slightly raised, but that's all. There's no redness, no "head" - no blackhead or whitehead or anything. It's not a pimple. It's just a slight bump.

I tell myself, "leave it alone and it will go away" (and it really would). But what do I do? I insist on squeezing it. Every. Single. Time. Of course, my idea of "squeezing" is something akin to a vise-grip. I basically maul my face. And then it takes about a week to heal. And during that week, all I want to do is hide under the covers.

Why do I do this to myself? Is there a pre-teen masochist lurking within?

Anyway, I did it to myself erev shabbos. And all shabbos long I had this huge red continent on my face. Ok, I'm exaggerating - but it's at least the size of Utah. And did I mention red? Shabbos afternoon, Yaakov says, "Do you want to take the girls to the shabbos party?" "I'm not going out with this thing on my face." "Are you kidding? Are you that vain?"

Well, yes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I could tell you about eating too much. Or how much time I spent laying on my couch. Or how all my kids had fevers. But these things didn't define the yom tov for me.

What made my shavuos was hearing the aseres hadibros. I closed my eyes and imagined myself at Har Sinai. I was wearing a drab brown robe, a nose ring, a scarf. My eyes watched the heavens. Around me were my sisters.

In my vision, I placed around me women who hurt me, or whom I've hurt. Women that I feel pain over, even as I type these words. I wanted to stand and receive the Torah with them.

Ve'ahavta lire'acha kamocha: Rabi Akiva omer, zeh klal gadol batorah.
Rabbi Akiva said; Love your fellow Jew as yourself. This is the entire Torah.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
When I get that feeling...

So this morning I'm on line at the heimishe store, and the non-Jewish cashier has a radio playing.

Out comes Marvin Gaye, singing about "healing" - for all us frummies standing there.

I don't know if anybody else recognized the song, or if they were even listening, or what. But I just stood there, ho hum, bagging my groceries.

A part of me was terribly embarrassed. But another part was terribly amused.

Monday, May 21, 2007
Think Globally...

So this morning, in the shower, I was thinking about Stalin (everybody thinks about autocrats while showering, right?).

So I thought about how he mercilessly ruined and ended so many lives. How could he do that?

And then another thought formed. Stalin spent a lot of time giving orders. He wasn't out there killing people. He wasn't yanking people out of their homes, away from their screaming wives and children. He wasn't putting people on the trains to Siberia. He had other people do it for him.

And giving the orders is a lot different than doing the dirty work. It's easy to sit at a desk and sign off on somebody's life. Just like it's easier to drop a bomb from an airplane than to shoot up an entire village of men, women, and children.

There's a psychological block that happens when you aren't there yourself. And that's why this terrible world is going on all around me and I could care less. Darfur? Who cares! I need to cook for shavuos! I am, however, cooking for four other Jewish families.

I cannot hear the cries of the suffering millions when I'm ensconced in my own little life. But I can make lasagne.

Friday, May 18, 2007

On our way home from school today, we were talking about kids who need our tehillim. Sick children, with illnesses we should never know.

I said, "What we really need is moshiach. We learn that the prayers of small children pierce the heavens, so lets sing for moshiach!"

Me, my kids, and my carpool boys sang every moshiach song we could think of, at the top of our lungs. "We want moshiach now," "chayolei adoneinu," "zol shoyn zein di geula," and "ad mosai." We were clapping and waving our arms, really going to town.

By the end of the trip, I felt so high. It was mamesh a chassidisher farbrengen - just what I needed!

Gut shabbos!

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Bookstore Delights!

I picked up the most amazing book for my dad tonight - it's a true story about a man who lost his vision at 3 years old. Well into adulthood, he has an amazing stem-cell surgery that restores his vision.

I got him the book for many reasons. One is that his best friend is blind. Another is because Dad's a voracious reader, and he loves non-fiction. And the bonus is, when I picked up the book I read that it's set in San Francisco (a city he loves and lived in for many years). So this book is great for Dad. But first, I'm reading it! I already started, and it's a total page-turner. I can't wait to get to the part where he starts seeing. What will that be like? How will he feel?

Here's Yaakov's father's day present. I noticed this book awhile ago and have been wanting to buy it ever since. I was so excited that I gave it to him as soon as I got home.

He's not the only nerd in the house...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yaakov is in NY on business, and guess what happened to him last night?

Thank G-d, he's okay.

Monday, May 14, 2007
Kashrus Revisited:

The kashrus post elicited a lot of comments, much to my surprise.

Anonym00kie wonders why I choose to follow Rav Plony's rulings. I guess because he's my Rav.

Stephanie wonders if I'm confused. I probably am, but what else is new?

I myself wonder why I'm being so strict in the kashrus department. One part feels that it's simply because Rav Plony says so. Another part can't help but wonder if I'm motivated by guilt or by fear. Is this quest for kashrus perfection somehow tied into my childhood? And a third part thinks all this self-analysis is yetzer hara. I mean, it's not a bad thing to improve in kashrus. I don't have to analyze why I want to be more mehader with a mitzvah.

p.s. In Crown Heights, for the first time, I used a light-box to check vegetables. Now I want one.

p.p.s. The people with the light-box had all kinds of cereals in their house. Does G-d have a sense of humor, or what?

Sunday, May 13, 2007
NY Trip

Thursday, May 10, 2007
L'kavod shabbos kodesh:

Let's hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Books and Cabbies.

One of the things I did in the Heights was visit Kehos books (40% off sale, woo!). I bought Likkutei Dibburim vol. 3 and 5 (4 is currently out of print, bummer).

In vol. 5 the Frierdikker Rebbe discusses the birth and childhood of the Alter Rebbe. I can't adequately decribe how I felt reading about this. It was very intense. Getting a personal glimpse into the lives of our rebbes is very special - I love the Likkutei Dibburim series. Another book I picked up is called "The Secret of Challah." The guy at Kehos said the book is flying off the shelves, and I can see why. It offers lots of tips, great recipes, braiding ideas, and even mentions segulos and kavanos. (BTW Wendy, I tried your 4-braid technique and it was beautiful!)

I also bought a 5-volume series of Ba'al Shem Tov stories. I bought some videos for the kids and I also bought Volume 1 of "Lessons in Tanya" (ours was falling apart). Despite the 40% off sale, I spent a pretty penny in Kehos. More than I spent anywhere else combined the entire trip, in fact (heck, I spent almost as much as my round-trip ticket).

And speaking of travel, I had an interesting experience on my way home. The driver who picked me up to take me to JFK was quite a character. I couldn't tell whether he was Russian or Israeli (maybe a hybrid?). Anyway, I asked him (politely!) if he would take my suitcase to the car. He shook his head no. "You can't help me get my suitcase to the car?" He paused for a moment. In a thick accent he replied; "Five dollar." "You want 5 dollars from me to get my suitcase to the car?" I was quite annoyed - I did it myself. I did tip him 5 bucks at the end of the trip, but I admonished him; "When a woman asks you for help, you don't ask her for money." Judging by his expression, I think he took it to heart.

Sunday, May 06, 2007
Kan Tziva.

Right now I'm at a friend's in Crown Heights. This trip has been really amazing and interesting, lots of stories to tell.

I arrived Friday afternoon and the bride picked me up from the airport. I ran around with her for a couple of hours and got into Crown Heights about 90 minutes before shabbos. Shabbos dinner was lovely, except the schvartzers across the street were barbecuing/playing music until 1:15 am. Disco, R & B, hip-hop, and even Elvis - which of course prompted a discussion on his Jewish roots.

Shabbos I went to 770 and there was some craziness in the ladies' section. I'm not blogging about it - suffice to say I was shocked. Yaakov jokingly refers to me as "The Meshugener Magnet," because crazy people are generally attracted to me (my theory is because I'm a little nuts myself). After shabbos, I called Yaakov and told him what happened. He reminded me of my nickname, and said it musta happened because I was there...

I basically ran around visiting people all day on shabbos. I spent some meaningful time with some very special people, including my old mashpia. I also went to the shabbos kallah (the party for the bride on the shabbos before her wedding). Everybody was so excited to see me, complimenting me left and right. I need to visit here more often, it's great for my self-esteem! The kallah looked gorgeous and we all had a grand time. Motsei shabbos I ran around with the bride some more, and collapsed into bed around midnight.

This morning I was with the kallah again until about 11am. The highlight of my morning is when she got to da'aven with the Rebbe's siddur. The Rebbe hand-delievered a box of 6 books for brides to use on their wedding day. I had the amazing opportunity to touch, hug, and kiss each one. I could not believe I had the honor of holding seforim that were in the Rebbe's holy hands. After I left the kallah I got to watch the amazing lag b'omer parade on Eastern Parkway! GEVALT! Thousands of Jews! It was awesome. I can't wait to post pictures.

The wedding was amazing. The chosson could not stop smiling. I never saw a groom smile so much. Usually they are somber, as weddings are very intense and holy. But this guy was even smiling away under the chuppah! And let me tell you about that, by the way: I've never experienced a funnier one! At one point, there were 2 five year olds having a little fist-fight. There was also a long delay, as they forgot to bring wine. So the couple is just standing there, mid-ceremony, while somebody ran out to get some. Then - and this has got to be the weirdest thing ever - some chossid walks in mid-way and gives the chosson a tap on the arm and says, "I'm here!" Hello? While the chosson was standing under the chuppah! (Maybe my meshugener magnet was still on?) The chosson just turned to the guy and - you guessed it! - smiled. The wedding was a blast, very leibedik. I even got to meet someone special from "the Jewish blogosphere." (HI!!!)

Late in the day I called Yaakov and said, "Whatcha doing?" "Oh, me and the kids are watching the dreidel-cam." "Is it live?" "Yeah, it's live." "Awesome! I'm going to go stand there and wave to you!" And that's what I did, dear readers. They were all laughing hysterically on the phone as I waved like a looney-tune. I even threw in a few John Travolta finger-points for their amusement (Okay, maybe it was for mine). Several hours later, I realized that ANYBODY could have been watching the dreidel-cam at that time.

I'm a nerd.

Thursday, May 03, 2007
Brooklyn, here I come.

I'm quite surprised by the amount of comments over the kashrus post. I'd like to take the time to address them, but that involves too much brain power right now.

I'm in the middle of packing for my NY trip. Zalman refuses to sleep, and I'm nowhere near done. All these little post-it notes keep flashing in my brain. "Don't forget to pack the heels!" "Don't forget deodorant!" One thing I did successfully pack was a cosmetics bag. For the first time ever, I'm flying with perfume. I'm going to a wedding, after all - must smell nice. I have so much to do between tonight and tomorrow morning, and I have to leave the house by 9am.

This is totally insane.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
blah blah Kashrus Rant blah blah blah...

Rav Plony has opened my eyes to some things in kashrus that I was unaware of. He tends to be machmir (strict), but I am making an effort to adhere to his rulings.

One thing I never knew is that certain canned vegetables need to be bishul yisroel (cooked by a Jew). Now here's something interesting: according to the OU, everything they certify that needs to be bishul yisroel is. But there are different opinions, and not all rabbonim agree with their certification criteria.

As I understand Rav Plony, only vegetables that cannot be eaten raw need to be bishul/pas yisroel. For example, carrots don't need to be, but beans do. We always ate Heinz vegetarian beans. And since I don't know all the factory-kashrus-halacha questions to ask, I am not calling up the OU or Heinz. I will switch to a heimishe company's beans - that's just easier for me.

Rav Plony also feels that cereals must be pas (baked) or bishul yisroel. Many rabbonim feel otherwise, even Lubavitchers. But since I'm striving to follow Rav Plony, we've stopped eating wheat or rice cereals and are only eating corn cereal (since corn can be eaten raw, that's acceptable). Again, I don't know all the questions to ask so I'm not calling up Kashi, General Mills, or Publix.

And here's something else: Potatoes. Foods that are considered suitable for "shulchan hamelech" - a king's table - have to be pas or bishul yisroel (unless they can be eaten raw, as stated above). Many people feel (like the Irish, ha ha) that potatoes are "poor man's food" and therefore do not fall into the category of "shulchan hamelech." But not Rav Plony. I'm flying JetBlue on Friday, and all I can think is; "Bye Bye, Terra Blues." The one damn snack I could eat on the plane!

Another thing I never knew is that re-usable plastic kitchenware requires tevila. I always relied on a more lenient opinion, which is that it didn't. But Rav Plony says it should be. My mind bottles? I looked on the OK website, and their official take on the matter is that it's "preferable." So I told Rav Plony, "I was taught that plastic did not require tevila, but now I'm trying to hold by your opinion. What should I do about the plasticware already in my kitchen?" He told me to toivel it.

Don't even get me started on the apple juice. Suffice to say, no more "regular kosher" apple juice. Only heimishe brands. There's a bottle of Kedem apple juice in my refrigerator right now.

I know this is a long rant. Some of you may not know what I'm talking about. (Hell, I don't know what I'm talking about!) I do know that I'm conflicted about taking on these new things.
I don't want to get so strict that I end up resenting the whole thing, or resenting Rav Plony. And then there's a part of me that feels like a faker. Who do I think I'm fooling? I was talking it over with G-d the other day - I told Him I didn't feel like I was holy enough to be so strict in my kashrus. And then I answered myself, "Well, I'm a Jew, right? I guess that's holy enough."

p.s. Check out the OK's vegetable checking guide. SCARY.

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com