Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sukkot, Unanswered Questions, and Beer by a Wood Stove

So my friends, how are you?  It's Sukkot.  The time of Happiness.  Rejoicing.  Togetherness.  Glamping.  You know, glamorous camping in the sukkah.  The Pagan-like, but definitely NOT pagan, activity of shaking a rain stick.  It's great.  It's actually my favorite holiday.  For many reasons.  One is that you are doing something religious just by being outside.  Almost never do Jews hang out outside and call it Torah.  So BAM!  Hippie holiday!  Next is that my profound love for arts and crafts is welcomed and appreciated.  Stringing up colorful foods and gluing popsicle sticks and pine cones together is not considered childish. SHABAM!  Yeah, Sukkot is definitely my favorite.

This Sukkot we drove up to Albany to spend the holiday with my mom and her husband.  It's a win win.  She cooks and hangs out with my kids; I don't cook or hang out with my kids.  See?  I win and I win.  Plus I happen to be one of those weirdos that actually really enjoys hanging out with my parents.

For Chol HaMoed, Hubby and me decided to dump our two littlest ones with my awesome Mama, and take our oldest boy to New Hampshire to visit a high school friend and his wife who have a daughter my son's age.  It's a 2 1/2 hour drive from here, and it's through Vermont.  I mean, seriously, Vermont!  Fall!  Foliage!  If driving through Vermont in the fall isn't a religious experience, well then, religion has a lot to learn.

Our friends live on 25 acres of rural NH heaven with some pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a couple of awesome dogs and a cat.  As we relaxed by the wood stove, beer in hand, belly full of a kosher feast we took every leniency in the book to make, good friends, and happy hearts, the question, as always, came back to me: Does being an observant Jew make me a good person?

When I ask this question, I am not questioning if Jews should be observant, or if the Torah is holy.  I am simply asking the question, is Torah helping me be the best me I can be?  I think of the expensive kosher food I feed my children, when I could feed them healthier, more environmentally friendly, locally sourced truly good for you food, that isn't kosher.  And it makes me wonder: When did it become so automatic to nourish our children's souls by being kosher, while ignoring their bodies, also gifts from God.  And is it ok that the joy of the chaggim has been replaced by the stress of spending money on that not so good food and sweating and swearing in the kitchen, trying to cook enough for three days?  And instead of spending some quality time with my kids before the holiday, telling them why it's so great, holy and special, I am yelling at them to clean up the house, not eat any of the yontif food until way past their bedtime, and leave me alone so I can get the work done.  So again I ask, is this making me a better person?  Can I do this and still be the best me?

I am not saying I want to give up my religious ways.  When I shook the lulav and etrog in the sukkah, I was overcome a deep feeling of  peace in my being.  Feeling the connection between me and every Jew, all over the world, for thousands of years, who shook their lulavs in their sukkahs.  The four species representing the different kinds of Jews and bringing them all together, as we are meant to be together.  The deeply ritualistic act of shaking them in a rainstick-like prayer for rain.  Because at one time we understood that rain equaled food.  Nowadays rain is just something we curse at for it's inconvenience.

I also don't believe Judaism is just here to make us feel good.  But when it becomes all stress and self hate for all the ways I can't live up to it's standards... And I end up giving up things, like being nice to my family, to try to hold to it's standards... Well, I start questioning.  I have no answers.  I am just questioning.

And writing about it gives me a kind of validation.  Like it's not something I'm doing alone in my closet and need to be ashamed of.  No.  I am questioning because I believe that when I die I will stand before my Maker, and I want to be able to say, "Yes, these are the choices I made in my life."  Not, "I don't know, I did it because I was supposed to."

The Good List

  1. My mama and her hubby being awesome with my kids and welcoming us into their home and letting us trash it while we're here
  2. Hanging out with wonderful friends
  3. My son having a BLAST with his girlfriend and therefor letting me and hubby just BE for 24 hours   
  4. Woodstoves, beer, and a giant mastiff snoring on the hearth
  5. NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL (Oh how I missed thee, New England, my true home!)
  6. Sukkot
  7. Playing in the Putney river

Monday, July 14, 2014


I haven’t written for a while now.  There has been so much happening in my life, so many changes.  And a lot has been brewing between Husband and me, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, he does not enjoy sharing his inner most private life with the world, the way I do.  Can’t imagine why.  But I experienced something today that I want to hold on to.  No, not hold onto as much as be with, roll between my hands and feel into…
To be frank, I had a shit day.  Bad sleep.  Stress rolled onto my shoulders from yesterday and the day before.  Yearning for the supportive embrace of my husband, but his hands were holding his share of the stress.  I spent much of my day filling out applications for my children’s schools and financial aid.  These applications eat away at my soul.  (Yes I am being dramatic, but what’s the point of having your own blog if you can’t be dramatic?)  Seriously, I HATE FORMS.  They always want a clear, precise answer.  But my life has NO CLEAR PRECISE ANSWERS.  So I am left feeling like a child, taking a test, unable to understand the instructions, therefore feeling my failure before I mark an answer. 
Meanwhile, I let the kids veg out on Netflix, because there was no way I could handle forms AND disarm the angry mob chanting “What can I doooo?” “I’m BORED.”  “Mooooooommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyy.”  The guilt over rotting my kids’ brains, and turning them into shallow culture, media obsessed, instant gratification zombies, was piled on my already heavy load.
And to top it all off, I was living with resentment against the only other human in the house who could offer me adult conversation, logic, comfort.  Because, in his stress, he doesn’t speak nicely.  And I get really hurt, then angry, then resentful, when someone doesn’t speak nicely to me.  And I didn’t care if he was right with anything that he said, because the way he said it to me hurt my feelings.  And yes, I feel like I am 8 years old when I say my feelings are hurt.  And yes, I am 32.  And that’s all there is to say about that. 

Meanwhile, I watch a show, to zombie out my own brain, when I finally finish with the forms.  And on the show is a character who seems to brighten people’s days by being extra nice and cheerful, even when things are tough for him.  I have this thought, ‘I’ll be extra nice and cheery in this world when my husband starts being nicer to me.  Because then I won’t be so angry and hurt all the time.’ 


Yeah, did you feel that?  Because I did.  It was like a wall of water hitting me, knocking me over, washing me over.  Waking me the hell up.  Why?  Why would I wait to be the person I want to be?  Why would I let someone else decide who I am?  If I were angry with someone, why would I then give him total control over me?  It’s madness.  And I know I’m crazy, but I am NOT that kind of crazy. 

So I made a decision.  I filled the tub, put on a bathing suit and told my two little ones to get in.  And I took a bath with them.  Wet, soft, little bodies, giggling, playing, singing songs, cuddling.  Smiling.  I was smiling.  I was getting the comforting touch I craved so much.  But in such a different way.  And I felt their love so strongly, and it filled me in such a deep way. 

All the stresses that were here yesterday, that I woke up with today, they’re not going anywhere.  But maybe I can put them down every now and then.  Stretch my back.  And decide in the moment, Who do I want to be right now?

1.  This experience
2.  The sunsets lately
3.  The blue heron that hung out in our pond yesterday
4.  This blog as my place of contemplation
5.  Fresh summer berries