Happy New Year?

Well, here we are, it’s a new year.  I have ditched my iPad in favor of a Kindle Fire tablet gifted to me by Alison.  It’s become my new best friend and also made me extremely grateful for those who gift me.  I seriously couldn’t afford such tech or gadgetry for myself and I do appreciate it.

I love it and am especially happy that the keyboard I got for the iPad works with it as well.  I am, in fact, typing on it as we speak.  I play sudoku on it, read more on it, take it places with me, watch Pride and Prejudice endlessly on it while I do dishes, write on it and take pictures with it.  Eventually I’ll figure out how to text on it and then, oh boy, I’ll be set won’t I?  Unfortunately it also makes window shopping on Amazon even easier but hey, my wish lists can’t hurt me.

It’s snowing out there today and I’ve been thinking about so many things for future blogs.  My big, fat Israeli divorce.  My heart bleeding silently for Jerusalem.  My love for my fiance and home here under the permafrost.  How these two things can be compatible in my life – my two greatest loves which are so very far apart.  My son, who is growing up before me and how hard this is for us both.  How autism morphs and changes and we blaze new and unknown trails every day as he grows into such an amazing young man and I struggle, as always, to just keep up and continue to wonder why people praise me for being a great mom – really, it’s because he’s such a tremendous young man.

I’m crocheting now after my knitting just disgusted me to the point of giving it up for now although Knitpicks has my nickel plated interchangeables for sale and they’re really gnawing away at me.  I still harbor that intense hatred for Polish customs for throwing away my needles in case you’re still wondering.  Anyway, I am making a “starburst” square afghan which consists of a gabillion little kinda granny squares that are really little starbursts that will all hook together.  I need a gabillion and I think I have 17 done.  Tune in later for more on THAT one.

I’ve been baking bread that sometimes people eat and lately, most of the time they snub.  Along with most of my dinners.  Oh Scott eats everything and praises what I cook and since I cook as an art, that makes me happy but still.  I have a can of raspberry pie filling and a package of yellow cake mix….I’m thinking raspberry filled cupcaked for Shabbat this week.  If I feel like it, I MAY share them with the children.

Then again, maybe not.  Depends.

I spent most of December worrying because on the first night of Hanukkah I got a call about my old house – someone was interested in buying it.  It wasn’t in the greatest shape and really, not in the best location and honestly, I wanted to just get rid of it before someone torched it.  The median sales price for what I had was less than $20,000 so I was happy with what we negotiated and I agreed to a sales price.  Talk about a Hanukkah miracle.  Most houses where my house was are on the market for 3-5 years and houses like mine?  Usually just abandoned.  So…being the worrier I am, I worried until the sales contract was signed and then I worried until the closing because I knew it would either fall through, there would be some wild lien I couldn’t even fathom or someone would torch it before we could get pen to paper.  I asked everyone I could think of for prayers and prayed as much as I could and to my own surprise on 31 December, we closed quickly, easily and with no fanfare.  Just signed the papers, said “Well, that’s that”, said goodbye to the ex, and walked away.  I never felt so relieved in my life.

I set about paying off debts I never thought I could pay off – I can’t even describe the feeling.  I have been so poor for so long and remain poor even after everything is now settled but I know that I am building a better life that hopefully will reveal itself.

Miracles are afoot and I bask in them.  I learned a long time ago that sometimes the only thing you can do is ride the tide of the miracles and just let HaShem do his thing and take you where you’re meant to go.  Fighting it really doesn’t get you anywhere and to be honest, basking in the glow of miracles is a pretty amazing feeling.  I recommend you try it.

I still feel anxious and, I hate to say it, depressed.  Maybe it’s the winter time even though I enjoy this time.  I think maybe depression isn’t even the right word.  Sometimes tired seems more like the right word.  Like life just makes me tired.  The happys aren’t as sparkly but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel happy, it’s like Scott said to me one evening when I was watching something funny on tv – “why aren’t you laughing?”  I was amused, just not enough to make me laugh out loud.  It’s hard to describe.  I suppose it’s like you can see the sun but it’s just not sparkly sunshine.  The sky is not a birdsegg blue.  You just DO, you don’t BE.  I can’t explain but that’s how I feel about it.  Sometimes I wish I could just sleep all day but I can’t.  I know that that’s what keeps me getting up each day.  If it weren’t so cold out, I’d be walking.  Routine powers my day but it doesn’t mean it’s any less exhausting just going about the routine of life.  And I am okay with it.  The routine gets me up and moving and I try to make little bits to look forward to, to break up the monotony of the routine….but the exhaustion and boredom remain.  Maybe someday it will change.  Right now, I just don’t see that.

So anyway, if I haven’t depressed you to death or bored you silly, happy new year to you.  Have you made any resolutions?  I used to when I was little.  I’d make – wait or it….schedules and routines for me to follow.  Now, not so much.  I make changes as I go…I don’t necessarily see calendar dates as the big time to decide to change my life.  This year I will be walking a 5k at the Pittsburgh Marathon and I am raising money for Evan’s Miracle League baseball team that allows kids with special needs to play adaptive baseball  (DONATE HERE) which is one of the most worthwhile things I can think of EVER doing so I am training for that.  And as usual I am doing random acts of kindness like carrying my emergency dollar to help people with change at the grocery store, helping out when I can (like bringing in trash cans when people are at work and it’s windy) and just trying to be a better human being this year.

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Outrage

There is little more to say.

Today in Jerusalem, four fathers woke up, put on prayer shawls and tefillin and went to their synagogue to welcome the day in morning prayer as they did everyday.

Today two cousins, Arabs, woke up and armed themselves with hatchets, cleavers and guns and also went to that synagogue.

Their intent was to kill everyone that they could inside of the synagogue.

When all was said and done, the four fathers were dead. Many more of the morning worshippers were hacked and maimed. A policeman was shot in the head.

He died tonight.

The Arabs were killed in a shootout as they tried to escape.

Benjamin Netanyahu says that the homes of the cousins will be demolished. Arrests were made, others detained. The internet reported another attack this evening in Jerusalem.

I saw videos of Arabs in East Jerusalem throwing candy and celebrating the massacre.

I watched a live video of the Kotel (Western Wall) throughout the day.

It was desolate.

People in Jerusalem said the buses were empty, people were skittish.

But…people do go on.

I feel strongly about this. I know that the people in Jerusalem are surrounded by Arabs who live and work amongst them. Cab drivers, cleaning staff, bus drivers. And for the most part we are friendly with them and they are friendly with us.

Now the seeds of mistrust have been sown. I can’t help but say that even though they may or may not even remotely know any of these terrorists who are so wantonly killing Jews in Jerusalem these past so many years; Sadly, because they have not taken any steps to put their collective foot down and mandate responsible leadership that can and will take decisive steps to STOP it, they are just as complicit as if they, themselves, wielded the cleavers and axes this morning.

And I also know according to western standards how I feel is not politically correct but it IS correct by way of my Israeli sensibilities and I am an Israeli you know….allowing this CANCER to remain and grow independent of any action to cut it out and eradicate it forever will only bring further heartbreak to Israel. Cancer is not “managed” – it is expunged for the best outcome. And when it isn’t….

Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.

Am Yisrael Chai!

The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.

Pretzel Challah

I don’t have much time today because I am busy making challah! Today I am pretzelling four of the eigt loaves I am making. Who thought it could be so easy!

In short, make your bread product as you normally do. I admit I use prefab bread and thaw it out to make my challah. In this case, I let it get soft and then cut it into loaf sizes and then strip sizes and then braid it into the final presentation.

Here comes the magic!

Boil 1/2C water. Stir in 1.5 t of baking soda once the water has boiled. It will fizz and bubble. Take it off the heat. Take a brush and brush your bread product with the baking soda mixture.

YES! IT’S THAT EASY!

Make sure you get all the nooks and crannies. If you want finish with an egg wash for a nice brown, shiny crust. Bake as you normally would 🙂

Added: the children pronounced it “good! It tastes like a pretzel!” which is certainly high praise! Then they split the loaf in half, each taking half, and scurried back to their lairs.

Try it!

Introduction to Judaism

It seems that our Introduction to Judaism class raises more questions for Scott and more questions for me to answer than I like to deal with.  Tonight was no exception.  Mostly the hard questions I tell him that it’s a good idea to ask his sponsoring rabbi, that I just can’t give him the answers he is looking for.  But tonight he didn’t seemed satisfied with that answer and pressed on.

The class dealt with history and specifically, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.  I guess I realize that each person would have his or her own answer to the question Rabbi Mahler posed which was, would you convert and keep your religion a secret or would you just leave?

Unfortunately, for Jews then and throughout history leaving wasn’t as easy as it sounds because there wasn’t always a place for them to go TO which is why the establishment of Israel was and IS so important…a haven ALWAYS in the storm.

But I am not sure I conveyed this adequately to Scott or that I even had the words or knowledge to convey this because this led to, why do Jews have a persecution complex and then to, why do Jews somehow think they are better than everyone else.

So I figured I’d pose these questions here and ask….what are your thoughts?

Recapturing Shabbat

I’ve talked before about how all of my issues over the last two years caused me to fall horrendously down the ladder of observance.  I particularly miss my Shabbats.

Shabbats in Israel were particularly special to me.  I spent them usually alone with my Boy, and we’d often take some smoke on our nargila (hookah) which I know is BAD but which we found to be SO Israeli and so relaxing, to start our Shabbat.  We’d listen for the Shabbat siren to sound signaling when we’d watch the Jerusalem sun begin to set and we’d light candles together.  Then we’d bless the wine and challah I’d bought that day and have the wonderful meal I’d cobbled together.

I loved it.  WE loved it.

Then we came back and were separated and even though eventually we were brought back together, baruch Hashem, I’d seemed to have lost everything.  I was pretty much homeless and couldn’t drive.  I was living in a home that I wasn’t yet comfortable in and I wasn’t comfortable with being me.  I was deeply troubled and depressed.  That year I couldn’t even bring myself to acknowledge the High Holy Days, much less celebrate them.

I HAVE started to feel better and I feel much more at home both in my skin and in my surroundings.  I made it to Rosh Hashanah services this year and celebrated the holiday as best I could with festive meals at home but Shabbat, Shabbat has eluded me for some reason.

Oddly since Scott and I became engaged, I have stressed that it’s very important for me that he convert before we marry.  So…since he was interested anyway, he has chosen to take the step now.  And…given that, we are attending conversion classes together.

The topic this week was Shabbat and on the way home Scott said it was curious why sometimes I lit candles and sometimes I didn’t.

Right then and there I knew that as important as I knew it had been for Evan when  was growing up (and even now – he will light sometimes when I don’t but not every week) it is now just as important for Scott’s fledgling neshama…maybe more so since he is so new to ALL of this and religion in general.

So this week I got over it.  I made challah (which I HAVE been doing pretty much every week since the beginning of this year) and I baked a sour cream bundt cake for everyone to enjoy.  I made chicken in the crock pot and a cholent in the other crock pot for today.  We lit candles, blessed the children, blessed the wine and challah and ate together.  Havdallah candles were found and grape juice placed at the ready.

I made Shabbat come and I am really glad I did.  I watched the Shabbat candles glow and then fade out and I felt happy that I had tried and succeeded.

We attended services on Saturday morning and as I prayed the long lost but familiar prayers I knew they were and always would be a part of me, just like Shabbat.  I just had to make them come out and just like Shabbat…they were there all the time.

I really just had to light the candles to see that and watch it glow in everyone’s faces.

The Apology That Never Came

I am so sorry that I spread a story about you.  It doesn’t matter whether it was true or not.  I should have thought more about where it would go and what it would do to you in the future.  Oh, I knew it would hurt you which is precisely what I intended for it to do because yes, you did hurt me and yes, I know you did apologize and yes, I did accept your apology.  But that was long after I told the story.

Now I want to ask YOUR forgiveness.  Can you forgive me?  I can never take back to story and I can never give you back the friends I took from you or the reputation I stole from you as I spun a story designed to make me look like a martyr.  I mean, isn’t that how everyone tells a story when they feel victimized?

I know there were lots of stories to be told during our time together and many times you didn’t tell them and I thank you for that.  You never made a point to make me look like a bad person on purpose even though I know you had your support people and I know you told them….you told me you did and I knew that telling them was like telling a wall.  It never went anywhere.

But what I told had legs and still has legs.  I’m sorry I can’t get it back.  I stopped telling it because it doesn’t do anything for me anymore but I know others still get something out of it and for them, it’s just another day of personal satisfaction for them to continue to wallow in it.  They always hated you and this just keeps that fire going.  I wish it didn’t because, really?  To be honest?  I’m about as tired of it as you are.  I want to move on too.

I liked being the victim for a long time but now even I want to do something else but when they say karma sneaks around to bite you in the ass?  They’re right.  So while I can apologize to you, I can never make this one right.  It’s like a game of telephone gone wrong.  What you did happened and it was over.  What I did is like a stone in the ocean….and it never, ever ends and sadly, I didn’t anticipate that.

So please forgive me.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for you and I am sorry for me.  I am really sorry that this just won’t stop.

I’m sorry too.  For me, it wont’t stop until I die.  Tragically, I do know how you feel and unfortunately, I don’t feel all that sorry for you.