Category Archives: Jewish

The Road Home

man-walking-down-country-road-29683842It’s Yom Kippur.  The destination, if you will, of a trip that begins with Rosh Hashana.  What a great holiday!

If you’re familiar with the Twelve Steps, the days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur are like doing steps 4-9: taking a moral inventory of oneself (we don’t get to inventory anyone else; bummer), admitting our mistakes–especially the ones we keep repeating, making amends to the humans we have harmed and, finally, re-turning to God.  Because, let’s face it, most of us turn away from what is right, sometimes several times a day, and as a result we feel fractioned.  Our destination on Yom Kippur is that sense of wholeness, home.  Returning to God, Whom, we discover, has been there all the time, waiting.

The Yom Kippur prayers are beautiful.  So many of them tell us that we are human, with human traits that are both positive and negative.  We do not expect to levitate  above our humanity; we’ll be here again next year, God willing, asking for forgiveness for mistakes we have made, vows we have broken, potential that went unfulfilled.  But hopefully we will have done better.  We will have consciously tried, anyway.

Perhaps the best part of this process is that we do it together, as a community of souls.  Saying the prayers together is a reminder that no one is any better or worse than her neighbor–of any faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, et al.  If we’ve turned away, we make the decision to turn back.  And God will accept us again…still…in our brokenness and our beauty.

Parenting at its best.

Wendy

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We want a Black Belt.

And this was only our first lesson!

No, silly’s.  Not the kind you wear with a dress.  The kind you have to earn.  The kind that make bad guys shake in their boots when you come at them, with your French Tips nails in full eye-ball gouge mode.  I want to have to register my stilettos as deadly weapons, and not just because I fell off them and broke my hip.   I want to be known by code name: HEAD (Hot-flashing And Extremely Dangerous).  Don’t look too closely at that acronym, cuz it’s messed up, but so what?  I said, SO WHAT?!

Why, you ask, does Carolyn suddenly want a black belt?  I’ll tell you why.  Because a few days ago, I saw in the news where a 72-year old-woman was bird-watching in Central Park when she was attacked and raped at 11am!  Broad daylight, folks!  In a section of the park where there are a lot of people!  According to the news, she’d seen him exposing himself a few days earlier and snapped his picture.  He’d chased after her (eeeewww) and demanded that she delete the picture.  Apparently, she said no.  The day he attacked her, he asked her, “Do you remember me?”  (Eeeeeewwww, eeeeek!)  Poor, bird-watching Nana!  Don’t the bad guys have some kind of code of ethics that says you don’t rape little granny’s who spend their time watching birdies at the park?

Clearly not.  I don’t want this to happen to me.  To my daughters.  To my Wendy.

So, Wendy and I decided that very morning that it was time for us to get our black belts.  To heck with the osteoporosis.  Forget about the fact that only thing we’ve ever punched was a mound of bread dough.  Time to explore our local self-defense options.

After a lengthy discussion, our first choice was a weekday, noon, free trial Krav Maga class.  The price was right!  What is Krav Maga, you ask?  Why, it’s the official hand-to-hand combat system of the Israel Defense Forces, duh.  Perfect for a couple of hot-flashers, huh?

Okay, aside from the fact that the Krav Maga class nearly killed us, we feel invigorated!  Empowered!  Ready to head to the park, for some bird watching, binoculars in hand, ready to kick the butts of perverts everywhere.  Yeah!

Then again, maybe I’m not quite ready to fight crime just…yet.  It’s been over a week and I’m still so sore, I can still barely get out of bed.  That, and the fact that I couldn’t bust away from Wendy’s choke hold (did I mention she’s still a tad miffed at me over some negative comments I made about her latest manuscript?), and I had to put my head between my knees (never eat a big lunch before doing any kind of military hand-to-hand combat) and I’m thinking maybe we should take another class.  Or two.  We’ll see.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Humor, Jewish, Krav Maga, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Self Defense

Life Is Hard. Now Go Play.

Here at Too Hot Mamas, Carolyn and I have ever-so-humbly dubbed ourselves the Lucy and Ethel of Menopausal Motherhood.  (If you had any idea how many whacked-out schemes for one thing or another my blog mate comes up with on a near daily basis, you, too, would suspect Lucille Ball of staging a walk-in.)

But Carolyn is in Central Oregon roughing it with her kids’ school, and I…well, dear reader, I am not feeling funny today.  Hey, I can laugh at a toothache, but as my hilarious Great Uncle Henry used to say, “Some things ain’t funny, Magee.”

My last blog touched on the extraordinary grace under fire of one of our neighbors.  Since then the nasty stuff hit the fan in another neighbor’s life when she awoke to an intruder who assaulted her, brutally, in her home.  The police caught the guy, but will the judicial system keep him off the streets?  Will she find the peace that defies understanding and feel safe in her home again, or out of it?  Will the children who usually run up and down our block as if it’s Mayberry be allowed to play as freely this summer?

And then, on Tuesday, I went to juvenile court to support a friend who has raised her granddaughter since the child was born while her parents struggled with meth, domestic violence and parole violations.  For five years, this grandmother’s refrain regarding her granddaughter has been, “If I do my job well, she won’t realize [how much chaos and fighting surrounds her].”  Being the eye in the storm can’t have been easy, but the five-year-old is a happy, stable child, as innocent as she should be at her age.

Juvenile court—whew.  Stay out of there, if you can.  For what was probably no more than thirty or forty minutes (but seemed like hours)—we watched this lovely five-year-old’s fate be tossed about by a bunch of lawyers whose chief agenda appeared to be Don’t Bother-Me-With-The-Facts-I-Have-A-Case-To-Win.  I watched my friend attacked as the wicked interloper instead of thanked for her love and devotion.  Yeah, so much for that pesky commandment about honoring our parents.

My Uncle Henry had a tough life.  Thirty-five major operations beginning at age three, cancer more times than I can count, heart disease, went blind for a time, broke his back, yadda yadda.  None of his siblings made it much past sixty.  When Uncle Henry was ninety, a waitress (he loved to eat out) asked him if he’d lived in Los Angeles all his life.  “Not yet,” he deadpanned.

Uncle Henry was the happiest person I’ve ever known.  Like any Jewish fellow worth his salt, he knew how to grieve heartily, how to bemoan the fact that bad things happened to good people.  He was not shy about asking, “Why?”  But he had a philosophy of life that was as much a part of him as his brown eyes, and he taught it to us in everything he said and everything he did:  Life is hard, kinderle.  Now go play. 

A mother dies, leaving three young children….  A woman is attacked in her home in the quiet area she trusted….  A little girl may lose the only stability she has ever known and face an uncertain future….

Life is hard.  Sometimes it’s bitterly hard.  But in the midst of it all, there are people willing to be God’s hands here on earth.  On Sunday night, eighty people gathered around the home of the young mother who lay dying on her forty-third birthday.  With candles lit and their voices raised so she, her husband and children would hear them inside the house, they sang Happy Birthday.

Life is hard.  Now go play.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Death, friendship, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Writing

Cupcake Wars

One of my daughter’s early teachers was called “Cupcake” (not to her face) by the parents, because of her penchant for celebrating every birthday, half-birthday, and holiday, including obscure-in-America British holidays, by serving fluffy cakes with gobs of frosting.  She considered sugar to be, in part, a learning tool.  It was quite effective.  My daughter does not remember the storyline to The Lace Snail, which we read a gazillion times (it’s wonderful), but she still speaks fondly of London’s October Plenty.  Attempts to form letters were rewarded with m&m’s or bits of red licorice.

Why am I thinking about this now, a few years after the fact?  Because I just spent two hours learning how to make a radish mouse to entice my daughter to eat her veggies.   Any veggie.  A no-thank-you bite of cherry tomato.  A snippet of gray green bean out of her Alphabet Soup.

For many years I was a sugar-free vegan (this was before Carolyn and I began entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I grant you) and regularly offered collards and kale to my daughter, who ate her greens with gusto.   Oh, yes she did.  In fact, her favorite breakfast was brown rice with butter, tiny minced carrots, nori seaweed and gomasio.  And then…Cupcake.

I love you, Cupcake, I do.  When introducing children to school, it’s a Jewish tradition to dot the pages of a book with honey so the learning will be sweet.   My daughter’s books were smeared with buttercream; I suppose that’s close.  And when she majors in British history I’m quite sure I will remember you fondly.  But I can’t help the pang of regret and frustration I experienced when she saw that adorable mouse staring up from her salad.  Raising it by it’s long radish root tail, she stared ambivalently awhile then asked, “Do I get dessert if I eat this?”

My next attempt will be carrot-cake oatmeal.  I’ll post the recipe if successful.

Wendy

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Filed under Children, Cooking, Fitness, Health, Humor, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, Pillsbury Bakeoff, Writing

Pul-lease

Please:  an adverb, used as a polite addition to requests, commands, etc.

I’m Jewish, but I often attend church with my Christian husband and our daughter, who, although she will gladly participate in Shabbat candle lighting and any holiday involving matzoh balls, has let me know emphatically that her spiritual path is different from mine.

Not a problem.  I believe God speaks to us in different languages and through many different faiths.  In fact, I love our little church with its diverse, devout congregation.  These folks live their lives in wholeness and holiness.  They walk their talk quietly and with enviable grace.

But the Sunday school?  Oy gevalt! 

Young children frequently forget their manners, of course, but what surprises me is the Sunday school teachers’ reluctance to rein in our vilda chaya.  Let me say here and now:  If my child develops a mental block around politeness, go ahead and correct her.

I am sure the disciples used “please” and “thank you” at the Last Supper.   I bet they helped clean up.  And when Jesus spoke, I’m guessing they gave him their attention.  I’m sure no one wants to offend a parent, but better you should offend me than allow my child to offend you.

Yes, “please” and “thank you” are my parenting pet peeves.  Over the years I have doled out a quantity of snacks roughly equivalent to the number of hors d’oeuvres served at Kate and Williams’ wedding.  I’m guessing I’ll double that output in the years to come.  How many thank yous have I heard from the children who are not mine?  Too few, dear reader, too few.

Now, I’m not claiming my precious angel is perfect.  Oh-ho no.  When we’re in Chinese restaurants, she still sucks the filling out of the egg rolls…oh, wait.  That’s me.  Well, her table manners aren’t the best, either.  She learned from her parents, after all, and we’re not on the Queen’s guest list, believe you me.

And, of course, my daughter has a few other habits we need to break.  Like sitting in lectures and workshops, rudely passing notes with her friends and giggling at things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand–

Oops.  Me again.

Dang.  But the giggling in workshops thing?  Honestly, that is almost always Carolyn’s fault.  She talks to me and obviously I don’t want her to think I’m rude so I answer.  If you read “Girl Fight” and “Cat Fight” then you know a couple of weeks ago we dragged two formerly polite and gracious women down with us.

Honestly, what is wrong with adults these days?

What are your politeness pet peeves?

Wendy…off to learn some manners.  Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Children, Humor, Jewish, Motherhood, parenthood, please and thank you