Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Swedish Greek Jews

All dressed up for Passover. Someone isn't happy
Yesterday my seven year old approached me and said "Mom, I know why dad didn't go to the Passover Seder. It's because he is a Christian!"

There are so many ways that I wanted to respond to that...

Your dad, is not a Christian, he is an atheist. He likes Christmas trees and Easter ham. He is not a Christian.

Even Christians have Seders.

Even if your dad was a Christian, he still should have come to celebrate a holiday that is important to my heritage. After all, I don't hide in my bedroom Christmas morning because I'm a Jew. 

Just before we were married we had a mandatory counseling session with the reformed Rabbi who would marry us. She sat us down, looked us in the eye and asked point blank how we would handle our interfaith family. What would we tell our kids? We were twenty-five and had an easy answer "We aren't religious." It didn't matter to us. We would give our kids a bit of this and a bit of that. My husband wasn't a church-goer and I did not have plans to keep Shabbat. Religion didn't matter.

I still do not consider myself a religious person, and neither is my husband. Neither of us believe in the immaculate conception or the parting of the red sea, which is why I am just as comfortable attending a Seder on Monday and welcoming the Easter Bunny this Sunday. So what has changed? I have. I have come to realize the importance of my Jewish heritage to my identity. Although it's been years since I have attended synagogue on a regular basis the songs and prayers are familiar, they are a warm memory of  childhood. 

My husband has all kinds of traditions that tie him to his past. A Greek meal on New Year's. Swedish smorgasbord on Christmas. His very name is Greek, and now mine is too. Christmas and Easter are celebrated loudly and without apology in our society. Target is lit up in red and green from October to January. The isles of the grocery and drug stores are crammed with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies from March-April.He doesn't have to work to keep his family traditions alive.

My heritage is tied to religion and not geography. I'm not a Russian or an Israeli, I am a Jew.  The stores don't market our holidays. If I want to acknowledge the traditions of my past, I have to make an effort. I must seek out a Jewish community, I must host or go to a Seder, I must attend Yom Kippur services. And I must take my children with me, so that they will know where they came from.

Monday night, I took the boys to a kid's Seder at the Berkeley JCC. I didn't have the energy to host a Seder. I grew up attending large Seders in our home or the home of our friends. They were crowded with members of our synagogue, friends and family. We said the prayers, ate the matzoh and drank the sweet red wine. We sang and hunted for the afikomen. My mom always made the matzoh ball soup. It was tradition. It was home.

The JCC had a 5:00 service for families of young children. I told my husband that he didn't have to come, I knew it was early for him since he usually doesn't get home from work until nearly 7. He also had tickets to a basketball game. I would take the boys myself, it would be fine.

Glass, before it was spilled.
The Seder was held in the auditorium, it was packed with unfamiliar faces. We spread blankets on floor, as the event was to be "picnic style."  My toddler managed to destroy several packages of Matzoh, and spill several more glass of juice, since everything was on the floor. I found myself apologizing to the strangers around me again and again. Julian was out of control. But who has a Seder on the floor with a room full of toddlers? The service was run by a Rabbi who specializes in creating family friendly religious events. She kept it light and fun and the boys enjoyed themselves well enough. We didn't sing the songs that I grew up with, and it was different from what I am accustomed to, but at least my boys were there, celebrating Passover. Then came dinner. Good Lord. "Dinner." Please see the picture below, there is no need for further explanation. The boys were disgusted with the cold chicken and cooked carrots. In classic Zachary fashion, my son looked at me and said "I guess the JCC doesn't have a five star chef." I guess not.
This is the box just as it was opened. Not too appetizing.

I found myself wishing that I had made a Seder at home, one with friends and matzoh ball soup and hot chicken.When Zachary told me that his dad didn't come to the Seder because he was a Christian, my heart sank.  At that moment I decided then that we were going to celebrate the Jewish holidays the way we do the Christian ones, with energy, enthusiasm, tradition and the whole family.

At twenty five I didn't know what would be important to me as a grown woman with a family. Lucky for me, I did know the man I that I was marrying  would support me and help me grow. As a mother,  I want my children to know me, to know their father, to know their grandparents,  to know their history. They have two parents who grew up differently in many ways, but now we are one family creating the memories and traditions for their future.

And honestly, what could be better than a Swedish Greek Jew?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Odd girl out

Disclaimer: I am well aware that I am lucky to have three healthy children. I understand that there are people everywhere who might envy me. I get that. Most of the time I feel blessed, but occasionally, I feel a sadness for what I don't have, a daughter. Occasionally that "loss" hurts, and because this is my personal blog, I am choosing to write about it here. If you don't want to hear it, you have been given fair warning....

My boys are daddy's boys, each and every one of them. They crave the rough and tumble play that he provides, and they seem to share my husband's passion for all things baseball. They are so lucky to have a father who truly enjoys tossing a ball to them for hours or spending the better part of an afternoon wrestling with them.

I have always been a "girly-girl." I prefer theater, make up, spa treatments and chatting over anything else. Sure I can enjoy an occasional baseball game (on a sunny day, with an ice cold beer), but I don't want to memorize player stats, or talk about drafts and rankings. It bores me. To tears.

Zachary now plays little league as well as soccer. Our weekends are packed with his games, practices and team parties. I enjoy watching him play, if only we could leave it at that. After a double header we will come home and dad will go out back with the boys and practice hitting, or throwing. Even my youngest gets in on the action, and while it is cute, it has grown tiresome, I want to do something else. It just doesn't seem that easy.

Sometimes I think that if I had daughters it would come more natrually. There interests might match mine, and playing with them would be easy. I could choreograph dances, dress them up in my old prom clothes, have tea parties and spa days. We might cuddle more, and sing songs together, perhaps even BOND. I am not totally naive  there is no way to predict what my girls might have been like, however I truly believe they would have been more like me.

Of course I didn't have girls, and I never will, so I am going to have to find a meaningful way to be a part of my children's life, lest I remain on the sidelines or in the kitchen as I listen while my family finds joy in a game that I don't understand.

It's hard not to be bitter and jealous sometimes. My husband's dream was realized. He has three little boys to follow in his footsteps while I often feel lonely, my own interests and passions of little use.

These feelings seem to ebb and flow, this weekend they were particularly strong, I can only hope that in time they will fade so  that I will find my place in this little family that I helped create.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When he grows up....

It must be nice to have your whole life planned out ahead of you, especially when you are only 4.5 years old. Just ask Evan, he has it all figured out.

When he is grown up he will:

Work at Clorox, making Brita bottles.
Have three kids named Julian, Ryan & Colin. There will be no girls. Of course there won't.
He will let Julian, Ryan & Colin watch T.V. whenever they want to, even in the car.
He will have a dog named Bascom and two cats, Wynkoop & Flanders. He will give his pets these names to remind him of his current animals.
His wife will only work sometimes. He doesn't know who his wife will be, he has lots of time to figure that one out.
He will go jogging on the weekends but he won't have time to go to the YMCA, he will be too busy.
He will have cookies and ice cream whenever he wants to, even for breakfast.
He will have a big blue car.
His parents will be very, very old.
He will have a full piggy bank.

Now it's documented. Check back in 30 years and see if Evan really will be working in a water bottle factory.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Living the Rock N' Roll Lifestyle...

SXSW was amazing. AMAZING. I was only there for two nights, and I don't know that I could have handled anymore, seeing as my last evening resulted in a two-day hangover, but I am so glad that I had the experience. I tagged along with the husband who's sexy job marketing cat litter and water filters has been taking him all sorts of exciting places these days.

We were actually wined and dined by a vendor, put up in a hotel that was too nice for riff-raff like us, given VIP passes, tickets to shows, way too many drinks along with a lobster and steak kind of meal. I won't lie, it was pretty awesome, as a lowly, recruiter I don't tend to get those types of perks in my job.

Keeping it classy

Hangin with Alan Stone

We saw some fantastic music while we were there, including Alan Stone & Lukas Nelson whom we got to meet and hang out with at the Brita party. Alan is a funny looking kid, with an amazing bluesy voice who was warm and funny. Lukas is actually Willie Nelson's son, and he sounds just like him when he wants to. I have to say as exciting as it was to meet Nate from FUN, these guys were so much nicer!

The other two highlights were seeing Diego Garcia in a church (it was actually incredibly romantic) and Maclemore, who totally rocked and kept me up much well past my bedtime.

Me & my high school friend, Frances!
In addition to the music I also had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend that I hadn't seen since high school! We had breakfast and shopped and it was such a lovely blast from the past.

And in case you are wondering, no, of course we didn't bring the kids. I could get used to this jet-setting rock n' roll life style, but sadly it has come to an end. Sundance, Belize and SXSW made this a winter to remember.

Getting silly
Sassy Running Top! Look how proud I am after 9 miles!

But now we are back to reality, which means working, little league and half marathon training. I ran 9 miles this morning and it was actually much better than last week. I owe it to my new music mix and the sassy new tank top I wore today. 

I suppose my regular life ain't so bad....

Monday, March 11, 2013

I'm going to do a half...eventually.

No half for you!

That was what I was telling myself yesterday.  After a difficult eight mile run on Sunday I decided that I will simply not be ready to run the Oakland half marathon on March 24. A week on vacation and a week sick has put me too far behind on my training. In a word today's run was miserable. Side cramps, stiff legs, wishing for the end the entire time. I spent most of yesterday feeling disappointed and discouraged, but by the end of the day I found myself re-energized as I researched future bay area runs.  What I needed was a goal, and I found one.

May 5, The Pleasanton Half Marathon. It isn't particularly sexy, no bells and whistles, no ocean view or San Francisco skyline, but it's nearby, and most importantly it's FLAT. 13 miles is hard enough on flat ground, I don't feel the need to be adding any steep city-by-the-bay hills!

I have also decided that I'm doing this run all by myself. My husband had offered to run with me, as have other friends, and while I understand that many people are motivated by workout buddies I find running to be an individual sport. This race is for me and about me. I don't want to worry that I'm slowing someone down or feeling like I need to hold a conversation. I don't want to stop for water if I don't want to stop for water, I don't want to keep any one's pace but my own, and quiet honestly I don't want to share the moment, I want it all to myself.

I know that 13 miles is a mere training run for real marathoners, and the accomplishment might not sound so great, but it's more than I have ever done, or have ever felt capable of doing, so I am damn excited and damn inspired to do this. And yes, I will be posting pictures. May 5th baby! I have some training to do....

Saturday, March 9, 2013

People I Want To Punch In The Face

It's overdue. There are a heck of a lot of folks out there I would like to give a punch in the face to. I got a little aggression out this afternoon in a photo shoot with my favorite photographer, Zachary.  Please go ahead and laugh at my expense.

1) Justin Bieber. I understand that there are millions of hormonal tweens in lust with boy wonder, and at first I had patience with the pop-star. I merely rolled my eyes when "Never, Say, Never" was released. (For the love of God Bieber, you were something like 11 when you were discovered, there wasn't even time to give up on your adolescent fantasy of fame. You do not inspire me.) But now that the kid is romping around half naked with his tush hanging out the back of his pants I can no longer hold my tongue. I feel like I'm looking at kiddie porn when I see his six pack abs in People magazine. Put some clothes on kiddo! And Justin? I know you can afford pants that fit your tight little buns, so why not flatter your rear with some real pants? You look FOOLISH. BAHHHH.

2) The freaky lady at the gym. There are lots of people at the YMCA that cause me to groan inwardly, but this one takes the cake. Said lady is fifty something and in decent shape, but by no means a "cougar." She is the kind of woman who you would expect to find on the beach with socks and crocks and visible sunscreen pasted over her every inch of skin. Crazy gym lady insists on attending just about every class that I do, which is fine, except that she refuses to participate in class. While everyone else is following the instructor's directions, lifting, squatting and sweating in unison, she simply does her own thing. Right. Smack. In front of me. With incredible intensity. I don't understand why she feels the need to join our group activity when she does not want to participate in a group activity. There are other rooms in the gym, free and available for her individual workout. I'm baffled. Simply baffled. And HIGHLY annoyed.

3) The vet. I don't blame the vet for Bascom's misfortune (serious dental disease, resulting in the extraction of 19 teeth.) However I am rather confused as to how he could have been so off on his estimates. When he examined my dog and made his recommendations he estimated that she would have up to three teeth removed. I got a call a few hours after I dropped Bascom off for her procedure and I was informed that instead of three teeth, there would be 19 teeth pulled, and by the way that's an extra $500. That's a pretty big difference. I am not insinuating that I would have not had the procedure done had I known, however, it would have been nice to have been prepared. Sorry kids. No college for you.

Really. Just try me. :)

Having some fun with it.
That's all for tonight. Until next time, breaking in my boxing gloves.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In Loving Memory, $1500

Let's be honest, Flanders was never a "good" cat. He wouldn't let you pick him up, he was scared of everything and he had a habit of peeing and puking on anything that might be difficult to clean. He cost us thousands and thousands of dollars over the years, from the destroyed attic in the Berkeley home we rented, to the stained carpets and the final vet bills. Of course that didn't stop me from loving him and mourning his passing.

I rarely mention Bascom, our ten year old 45 pound black lab/mix. I got her in the nesting phase of my life, before children, when I was simply trying on the idea of being a responsible adult and "dog mommy." She was an adorable and well loved puppy. We took her on hikes, picnics, and even threw her a giant first birthday party. Yes, we were those people.My relationship with Bascom has changed over the years as our children have taken priority and zapped our energy. I curse the little black furs I find covering our floors, and despise the waste pick-up in our yard and on walks. Yet she is a good enough dog. She has always been kind to our children and withstood everything from championship dog-ridding to tail pulling with good cheer. 

Upon returning from our vacation my in-laws (who were kindly running the ship in our absence) informed us that Bascom did not seem well. She wasn't eating, was lethargic and had taken to drooling. Not to mention that she stinks. She has smelled for some time, but I can't even stand to be near her now. No less than two weeks after visiting Broadway Pet Hospital with Flanders, I now needed to return with our dog, at least it was convenient, my cat's ashes were ready for pick up.

Long and boring story short, I left the vet with a bill estimating $1500. Let me say that again. $1500. For a dog with bad breath. Turns out Bascom's mouth is infected. She received a shot of antibiotics and pain medication and will be returning on Friday to be put under anesthesia and receive a dental exam/cleaning/extractions. In case you are wondering, I don't happen to have an extra $1500 just burning a whole in my pocket, but what choice do I have? The poor dog needs help.

So today I am one cat memorial richer (see picture) and $1500 poorer.

Tell me again why we love our pets? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

What I learned in Belize

Did you miss me?

Rocking the one-piece. Soon everyone will be doing it.

We returned from our Belize vacation last night. I won't bore you with a blow by blow of our travels. If you are interested in a trip to Belize I am sure you can find plenty of travel sites that will outline the best restaurants and beaches. Rather I'll share the top ten things I took away from vacation..

1) It turns out that one-piece swimsuits are not in fact, all the rage after all, at least if you go by the tourist population on our little island in Belize. I may have actually been the only female wearing one. As suspected there were plenty of bikinis and tankinis. I still think I'm on the cutting edge. Everyone will be wearing them soon, and if not, that only makes me independent and original. Yup.

2) I'm not very good at snorkeling. I like the idea of it, but with my abnormally small head/face it is quiet difficult for me to get a mask that fits. An ill-fitting mask means salt water up your nose, in your eyes and down your throat. Salt water up your nose, in your eyes and down your throat makes for an unpleasant experience. Period. So while my husband was admiring sea turtles and sting rays I was sitting on the boat trying to get the taste of sea water out of my mouth.

3) They really don't drink wine in Belize. I'm not as well practiced in drinking large quantities of rum, but I really, really enjoy a good pina colada.

4) If given the opportunity, I am really rather good at napping.

5) Weddings still make me cry.

6) Although I am no wedding singer, I am at least a little better then the majority of  drunk karaoke participants.

7) I have the baby bug...bad. There was an adorable six week old baby among the wedding party. Her name is Hazel, and she is an absolute doll. I held her, snuggled her and desperatly wanted her to be mine. As I pet her soft little head I remembered each of my own babies and how much they had grown. I don't have a baby anymore, and thanks to my smart thinking I have ensured that I never will again. As much as I yearn for an infant, I have no use for four boys.

8) There is something magical about the ocean and sunset.

9) There is something magical about seeing friends from twenty years passed, once at the peak of our recklace yet glorious youth, now grown, settled and  in love. Their faces bring back memories of another time and there is warmth in remembering. As I looked at these friends each who have changed by way of grey hairs, beards, parenthood, love or loss I see my own transfomation reflected through them. No longer an anxious, excited, lost college girl, I'm a grown woman. A wife. A mother. We have all grown, and yet the bonds of friendship remain.

My friend Jessica. I have known her since I was 19!

10) As nice as it was to be away from the munchkins, there was nothing sweeter then the reunion with three boys who could not have been happier to see their mommy and daddy come home.