To Tide You Over

I’m still working on the Big Holiday Post of Doom–not to hype it up too much, I’m just attempting to make a bunch of pieces fit together coherently and am on Draft #2. In the meantime, it’s The Week Between Christmas And New Year’s, when traffic is light! and no one does any work! and life is good! So I thought I’d just go on ahead and depress everyone.

For something to do on Christmas Eve Day, I took the kids to our neighborhood kiddie gym where they were having one of their free-for-all “open gym” sessions. Parents were sitting on benches watching their kids run around. About 25 feet away from me, a woman sat reading a newspaper. And then, all of a sudden, she was crying. She was probably making some effort to hide this, or to stop it, but there was no doubt about it. I felt terrible for her, because I have been there.

I envisioned all sorts of possibilities. She could just be having a bad day. She could be having a surge of hormones (just regular cycle stuff, or she’s pregnant, or she’s postpartum, or she’s menopausal). Maybe she just suffered a terrible loss (the loss of a parent perhaps, or, again, a pregnancy) and is barely holding it together for her son (who looked to be about four). The more important thing to determine was whether I should pretend I did not see her tears, or go over to her and ask her if she’s okay. I have had situations in which I could not stop tears even in public, but was all the while hoping no one would notice (in fact, just this morning I was reading this on the train; it is enough to move anyone to tears). I have also had situations in which a person did show me some sympathy, and it helped–at least to pull me temporarily out of the func so I could funktion. Which way to go for this complete stranger?

During my hesitation, the woman’s son came over. There is really nothing better when you are sad than interacting with your child, I thought; not only are children generally great cheerer-uppers, they create a necessary distraction because you can’t help but parent them and push your personal worries to the side. She talked to him and he left again. I was still unsure. She found the tissue box they always keep on the counter–that’s progress, I thought. The son came back, and asked her to come help him with something, which she did. The immediate crisis was placed on hold.

Not long after that, we had to depart for a date with Daddy. But I continued to send out my sympathy vibe to the nameless woman who doubtless has her own story to tell. Perhaps I could have given her a bit of needed strength, had I not frozen. What would you have done?

THE SHIFT

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this movie. I think it’s so powerful and I can see the increase of people wanting to make a difference. But when I thought about it, I could see those moving toward the other side as well. The people who are involved in THE SHIFT used to be a minority of people called “Tree Huggers.” It seems to me that what happened is that those who had even a grain of that feeling in them (including myself) are moving toward THE SHIFT, but those who didn’t are moving away. It reminds me of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which simply states, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It was tangible in the most recent election. We just need to make sure that the momentum of THE SHIFT adheres to Newton’s First Law of Motion while not allowing any external forces the capacity to destroy. I think we have a better shot now more than ever.

A Facebook Conversation

The day after the election…

Chuck does not know what to do with all that Gen X cynicism he’s carried for 20 years. 10:45am

Miss Guided at 10:52am November 5
I am sure something will come along that you can pour it into. I hope O can make the world a better place, but I doubt it.

Linda at 10:55am November 5
Miss Guided – you have to believe it for it to happen. He’s only a man. He needs help from everyone now. Sounds like you won’t be helping and I’m sad to hear that. But many of us are going to turn this world around and we’ll reap the benefits.

Miss Guided at 11:21am November 5
Curious, how do you suppose I am not willing to help? I teach my kids to be responsible humans, I don’t take what isn’t mine, I am faithful to the path God has called me to. What, exactly, do you want my help with. I am always willing to serve those around me.

Mark at 11:32am November 5
Chuck, light fuse and get away!

Linda at 11:50am November 5
LOL Mark.

Miss Guided – First, I didn’t say definitively that you would NOT help. I said it sounds like you won’t help. And the reason I said that was the overall pessimistic attitude (i.e. “I hope O can make the world a better place, but I doubt it.”). So, you’re saying you ARE willing to help, and that’s great. I hope to see you put your money where you mouth is, but I doubt it.

Miss Guided at 12:06pm November 5
What money? What do you need my money for? Right now I am kind of using it taking care of my kids and our home. I need it to pay for our mortgage, to buy the food we don’t produce ourselves, to pay for my kids if they need medicine or the materials we need to educate them. To pay for the gas to take them places, to pay for the electricity to keep them warm, to pay for the auto insurance so if we injure someone we can provide for their relief. And the very important internet access. Now, we do all of this without debt, without stealing, and without asking for money from people we don’t know. Can you please be more specific on where I should put my money?

Linda at 1:50pm November 5
“Can you please be more specific on where I should put my money?”

Um, yes, but I don’t want to be kicked off Facebook.

Miss Guided at 2:04pm November 5
So does that mean I win the debate? You can’t come up with a response that wouldn’t be considered inappropriate? Please, I am genuinely interested, please tell me what change you hope to see in the next 4 years or 40. What do you want to happen?

Linda at 2:07pm November 5
Yes, Miss Guided, you win.

Miss Guided at 2:12pm November 5
Does that mean you aren’t going to tell me what you hope to see in the future and I have to find another liberal friend to explain it to me?

Linda at 2:16pm November 5
Color me impressed. You finally gleaned something from all of this.

Miss Guided at 2:24pm November 5
That you can’t give me a strait answer? What did you learn?

Linda at 2:35pm November 5
That you don’t know the difference between glean & learn. Time to pick up my boys. Toodles!

I love that all these people who claim that McCain would have crossed party lines to help our world simply aren’t willing to do the same or support Obama in doing so. Of course, all of them believe he has terrorist ties (talk about a bunch of racists, every single one). So, for those who say, “Don’t blame me I didn’t vote for him,” don’t worry, you won’t hear that from me. But when he does help us, you better not take any of the credit either and you better be willing to swallow your misguided pride and admit that he actually did help. Though, from what I’ve seen, they’ll say the good comes from Republicans putting things in place first. I’ll tell you, if there is a bumpy road in this process, it will come from all the Republican lumps of crap in the road we have to get over.

Shall I Tell You My Dream?

If anyone recognizes the film reference in the title of this post, let me know and you might get a prize. At the very least, you will have earned my utmost respect.

I mentioned this upsetting dream I had while I was on a brief vacation. It has been a while and the issue is at least partly resolved, but it was definitely one of those things where feelings that have been bubbling under the surface explode while I’m sleeping and send me a message that it is time to act on them before…well, let me tell you what happened in the dream.

I don’t remember all of it, but I know that I ended up in a hospital. Friends surrounded me, and I was talking to them, but crying all the while. It was as if I was unloading every issue, large or small, that was weighing on my mind. At some point, a psychiatrist arrived, and he told me “you’re not going anywhere,” meaning that I was to be admitted to the hospital’s psych ward based on my inability to stop crying. I felt some measure of relief that I was going to get help. The crucial aspect of this, though, is the one problem I cried over that I actually remembered when I woke up.

I saw that a guy who I will call JK had joined our little group in the waiting room. I told everyone else that I knew why he was there. I’d gone to school with him, but more importantly, his mother is the executive director of the synagogue I’d grown up in. I had been struggling over whether or not to enroll Einstein in the religious school for Kindergarten. And now some background is needed.

Before I was born, my parents moved to the town I grew up, to the house where my mother still lives. The area did not have a conservative congregation at that time, but my father quickly fixed that. He put an ad in the paper, and it was answered, and things got started and grew. Dad was a cantor, and although he kept his “day job” working for the D.C. government, he served as the new congregation’s cantor for the first 16 or so years of my life. So, as you might imagine, my Jewish identity was wrapped around the fact that it was my father chanting services, which also made me and my mother and sisters semi-famous at the shul (that’s a Yiddishism meaning synagogue). What I am getting at is that I really felt as if I belonged there.

But stuff changed. My father retired from the cantor position in 1986 or ’87. I wasn’t quite old enough to be told everything that was going on, but if I understand correctly, he left because his disabilities wouldn’t allow him to do as much, and they would not let him do less. He used to have to take breaks during certain parts of the service where he wasn’t needed, in order to put his feet up in his office (he had circulation problems). So as not to be too disruptive, he would leave the sanctuary through the kitchen that opened out into a corridor leading to the front office. Apparently, since Dad was a pretty large man, some people thought he was going into the kitchen to eat! It made me very angry at the time; it seemed as if some committee was forcing him out, and I thought that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that, since the whole establishment wouldn’t exist if not for him.

I went to college after that, but I was still local and came home a lot. It was odd going to shul without Dad being up on the bima (that’s Hebrew for stage, or for the podium used in the synagogue for those who are leading things). Nevertheless, I got married there in 1997, by a handpicked rabbi, and with Dad chanting the Sheva Brachas (literally “seven blessings,” a typical Jewish wedding thing). In December 2003, Dad, who had been suffering from various medical problems, became very ill and passed away. My connection to the shul was already frayed and it got worse.

My husband and I continued to go to High Holiday services at the old place, but we did not join. Besides the whole Dad thing, there was the issue of the husband having been brought up in a Reform congregation, so that for him, our services have too much Hebrew (and are probably longer too). Then we had children, and we knew that at some point we’d have to figure out where we wanted to be. My mother doesn’t like going to services there because of the lack of Dad (not to mention she can’t stand the current cantor’s voice), but she doesn’t feel she can go anywhere else. Although I still find myself pulled to the old place, I don’t feel as if I have to be there, and if the husband is happy somewhere else, that’s where we ought to be.

When the time neared for Einstein to start school, I decided we’d have to try out the area shuls (or “temples,” as the Reform refer to them). But, I simply didn’t get off my butt to do it. I inquired about the tuition for religious school at the old place in the spring, and found out that it is around $300-400 more for nonmembers (you don’t have to become a member until your child is in the 3rd grade). Not wanted to shell out that much more (and not realizing at the time that the membership cost is an astronomical $2000/year), I said, forget it, I’m going to figure out where to join and get the member’s price on tuition. But I didn’t and the enrollment time drew nearer. I thought it would be okay to wait a year; after all, Einstein just started regular school, maybe starting Sunday School at the same time is too much.

And then I had this dream. And realized that I have Jewish Mother guilt! Or maybe that Dad is somehow communicating with me. Or both! In any event, I knew I had to enroll Einstein at the original shul and put off worrying about where we will actually end up. A few good things have come out of this. One is that I discovered that many people do not join a shul until they “have to,” i.e. their children are at the age where they can’t attend religious school unless their parent(s) is/are member(s) of that shul. It turns out that enrolling your child makes you a quasi-member; you get the e-mails, you get the newsletter, you know what is going on. More importantly, my decision has helped me on my quest to combat Christmas Envy. Einstein seems excited to learn about Judaism; it is making him proud, and he is starting to get that we have a bunch of neat holidays that others don’t have. (Just to clarify–I have no problem with Einstein participating in others’ Christmas celebrations. I just don’t celebrate it my home, and last year Einstein expressed, several times, a wish that we could celebrate it. This makes perfect sense, but I’m trying to get him past it. I don’t remember being envious of my non-Jewish friends growing up, so whatever my parents did worked for me. Not my baby sister, though. But that’s another post.)

By the way, the executive director, whose son was in the dream, did offer to have me pay the tuition in monthly installments instead of all at once. The director of education kept my e-mail from my tuition inquiry back in the spring and e-mailed me not long before school asking if I was planning to enroll, and at that time I told her I was worried about paying the tuition. She told me that I should just pay the deposit and make arrangements with the executive director. I get the impression that they don’t want to turn anyone away. But we know the ED, because she has been in that position for a long time, and I was a little embarrassed and was dreading talking to her, so that was another part of the problem.

The next step? Visiting a bunch of places. With all of our free time. And I should be taking Einstein to “Junior Congregation,” which is a youth service that takes place twice a month, on Saturdays, of course. Saturday being our only totally free day now that Einstein has to go to school every Sunday morning! I foresee another dream…in which my head explodes. Meanwhile, I think I killed the last one, and my friends will not have to have me committed. Yay!!

Life Updates

If you’re on Facebook, you probably know all of this. But for those who haven’t moved to the dark side, Joe is currently in the Seattle area and has had his two interviews. Both were fantastic, but one of the two was way better than he thought it was going to be. That area is now a huge contender. We’ll wait to see if offers are made, but they are expected. Next on the docket are interviews in State College, PA, Lexington, KY and possibly, Baltimore, MD (if they want to foot some of the bill).

School is going well for Ari, Josh and me.

Since I’m here…KidDoc, when I got the package from you, I expected it was going to be the clothes so I let it set for a while. Josh kept jumping up and down on it so I figured I better open it. I was absolutely floored to get the mug from Greece. Thank you sooooo much. It’s an awesome addition. The pics were fantastic, though. What a beautiful little man you have there. If Seattle is going to be our destination, we have got to find a way to visit you guys before we move. Maybe spring break? Ari has been asking about his uncle a lot lately, especially after seeing pics of your baby. He wants to know that if you have a baby if you’re still interested in playing with him. LOL It’s very cute. Needless to say, he’s attached.

How about a little update from everyone else?

Spam From Mom

My mom sends some occasionally funny things via email, but most of the time I just go ahead and delete them. Well, I’m posting this one because I LOVE it.

POWERFUL WOMEN’S MOTTO
Live your life in such a way that
when your feet hit the floor in the morning,
Satan shudders & says…
“Oh shit! She’s awake!!”

Sad, But True

How We Became the United States of France

Here’s an excerpt from the article, which was eerily one of the most disturbing things I’ve read recently.

The average American is working two and half jobs, gets two weeks off, and has all the employment security of a one-armed trapeze artist. The Bush Administration has preached the “ownership society” to America: own your house, own your retirement account; you don’t need the government in your way. So Americans mortgaged themselves to the hilt to buy overpriced houses they can no longer afford and signed up for 401k programs that put money where, exactly? In the stock market! Where rich Republicans fleeced them.