Monthly Archives: December 2008

See you on the flip side

Nothing is wrong.  We are all well, and my mood is fine.  I just need a short blogging break.  I should be back next week, but since you are used to five posts a week, I thought I ought to let you know  so you don’t worry.

I don’t feel like blogging today

Now, this could be due to the total sleep deprivation.  Or it could be because anything I have to say today is vapid compared with what’s going on in Gaza.  And Iraq.  And Tennessee.  And [insert location here].  We’re crapping in our living room and blowing up our neighbors and building an economy out of empty Pixie Stix wrappers and distracting ourselves with shiny baubles so that we don’t notice the sludge we are wading through to get to the After Christmas Sales.  

Next year in Jerusalem.  Next year may all have peace.

Challenge week four: holding steady

I have started running again and it feels great.  Still, if I want to lose the baby weight, it might behoove me to throw away the fudge in my refrigerator.

That half-pound from last week?  It’s back. 

I want to repeat here that I am not dieting or trying to lose weight.  I know that eating enough to keep up my milk will slow the loss down, and as I said before, I’m cool with that.  In the long run, breastfeeding will help me get all the way down, just as it did with the last two.  I am blogging about it simply to give those who are dieting someone to compete against, since I know that sometimes helps.

So, where are you?

We’ve been sort of busy

            A year ago, we were nearing the end of our two-year stint in London.  We had rented out the dream house we owned in Philadelphia because we knew the London thing was of finite duration.  We were set to leave in late March 2008 to return to our house, our friends, and the preschool we had signed up for in Philly.

            And then the decision finally came down the line just before Christmas day.  We would be moving to Los Angeles.

            So, a year ago, we were wrapping our heads around a rather sizable shift in our plans.  Instead of returning to the familiar, a mere two hours away from J’s parents, we would be moving to a city I had only ever seen for 36 hours, a nation away from our children’s closest relatives.

            A year ago, we were definitely only having two children.  We had given away all our baby stuff as soon as Benjamin was done with it because we had no plans of a third.

            Here I sit, our bonus baby zonked out in my arms, in Los Angeles.  Between last year’s Boxing Day and this one is packed a frantic preschool search from the other side of the world, temporary housing, finding a new home, making friends, learning an entirely new city, Benjamin starting preschool, and one very surprising pink line.

            I hit a low sometime in the middle of it.  The boys have been stretched and pulled.  But, we are surviving all the changes, and don’t think for a moment that I don’t realize how totally and absurdly lucky we are.

            A year ago, I had no idea what to expect from 2008.  I certainly never expected it to be this beautiful.

Finding Meaning

Evenshine asked me how it is I find meaning, as I don’t believe in God.  She has been incredibly respectful of our differing beliefs, so here is my answer.

I find meaning in giving a pear to a homeless man standing in the rain off the 405 exit ramp.

I don’t give a shit and a half about handbags.

I find meaning in walking instead of driving whenever possible.

I would be a terrible witness in a hit and run since I can’t tell a Lexus from a Yugo.  Although, after this much time at our preschool, I know from Escalades, as long as they are black.

I find meaning in donating my breastmilk.

Not so much in sunglasses.  Seriously, what’s with the Dolce & Gabano?

I find meaning in my community helping my family through a crisis.

I like designer clothes as much as the next girl, but I know that the slogan “For All Mankind” does not endow Seven jeans with social significance.

 I believe in people.

I enjoy a fancy restaurant, but I try not to confuse it with meaningful interaction with my partner.

I find meaning in Benjamin’s excitement every time his brother comes come.  Especially when Zach hugs him instead of hitting him over the head.

Meaning for me is in the mundane.  I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the power of daily acts and the importance of respecting our environment and caring for our fellow creatures.  I am not a great person, and I know that my practice falls far below my ideals.  But, I try to make sure that each day I do something more meaningful than simply consume.

How do you find meaning?

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas

            When I was in my early twenties, my sister had a son.  My nephew was two or three years old when I visited them one year during what has come to be referred to as “The Holiday Season,” which is a euphemism for “The Season During Which the Dominant Religion (and Those Whose Families Once Affiliated With This Religion and Still Celebrate its Holidays) Try to Pretend That Having Christmas Trees in Public Buildings Does Not Violate the Separation of Church and State.”  My visit happened to coincide with a minor Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah.  It is a tradition at this time of year to give small gifts to children, so I brought one along.

            As is usual in the observance of Hanukkah, my sister was lighting her menorah every night for eight nights, adding one candle for each night.  This is done to celebrate the miracle in which God supposedly allowed a group of violent religious fundamentalists, known as the Maccabees, eight nights of light for the price of one night of oil.  She was also giving her son a gift each night, spreading out the gifts from all the relatives over the eight nights of the holiday.

            I was completely taken aback.  Partly this was because my sister has never been much of one for religion.  But partly it was because I had never before been in a house where gifts were given on all eight nights.  In our aunt’s house, where we lived for the second half of our childhood, gifts were all opened on the first night.  The family gathered in the den, surrounded by mounds of presents, and we each took turns opening gifts.  In twenty-eight minutes, there was wrapping paper everywhere and each of us had his or her gifts for the season.

            I assumed this was the way the holiday was celebrated in all families.  I figured that in the modern world, families were too busy to celebrate each and every night and that we were doing pretty darned well by at least remembering to light the candles every night.  So, when I saw my sister doing it the old-fashioned way, I was a bit awestruck.

            Over the years, my attitude towards this practice has evolved. We, too, celebrate each night.  There are no gifts the first night, as we give to charity instead for that one evening.  The rest of the nights, there are gifts, spreading out any from other relatives plus a few from us over the eight nights.  My friend, Caroline, once told me about a family that shares experiences each night: games, ice cream, whatnot.  I like that, too, but this really is the only time, other than their birthdays, that our children get new toys from their parents, and unlike the Maccabees, we are not zealots.

            To me now, the idea of opening a whole slew of gifts on the first night is a bit grotesque.  It smacks of consumerism rather than meaning.  It debases the participants because it really has nothing to do with the holiday and everything to do with getting new stuff, which is ugly.  But, more than that, it is about Christmas.

            To me, a Jewish household that has a single big night of gift-giving is aping Christianity.  This practice is akin to Jewish households that have Hanukkah Bushes.  I am not, of course, referring to mixed-faith households, in which each religion is recognized.  But ours is a fully Jewish household, and if we were to try to pretend Hanukkah is Christmas, it would feel a bit too uncomfortably like a certain famous Harriet Beecher Stowe character.

            I suspect that, as our kids get older, we will not celebrate every night together, just as we won’t have Shabbat dinner as a family every week.  But, I do hope we are wise enough to recognize that we are simply outgrowing a practice that is mostly for the kids and scale back, rather than giving a lot of gifts at once.  I hope we are all comfortable enough with our own heritage to not need to leech the trappings of someone else’s, a practice that treats Christmas and Hanukkah as though they are only about greed.

            Because, as everyone knows, the best part of Hanukkah is not the presents, the lights, the dreidels, or even the gold coin chocolates.  It goes without saying that it’s all about the doughnuts.

I’m back. Did you miss me?

            Either I am a fast worker or a terrible judge of how long things will take, because I always get all anxious that I won’t have enough time to complete a task and then I finish early.  I guess that makes it a good thing I am a writer instead of a prostitute.

            There is a Yahoo group for L.A. mothers, and yesterday a woman posted that she is having migraines, the treatment for which forces her to pump and dump.  She has a three-week-old, is a low producer, and is heartbroken to watch that milk going down the drain.  I replied that I know nothing about migraines, but I have a freezer full of pumped milk that I will have to throw away because it is going to expire before I can convince my baby to take a bottle.  (You cannot donate milk to a milk bank unless you are prescreened before you pump.  Already-pumped milk is not accepted.)

            So, this very lovely mother of two came over and emptied our freezer of all of October and half of November.  December we’re still hoping to feed to Lilah sometime in the next few months.

            A mitzvah is a blessing, not a good deed.  To do a good deed is to perform a mitzvah, but it is actually a blessing for the doer, not the recipient.  I have been the recipient of a flood of mitzvoth lately, and it was nice to be able to pay it forward.

            Plus, I got to say, “I told you so” to the husband who kept telling me I was just wasting freezer space.  And you just can’t put a price on that.