Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family, Friends and Matzah

There's nothing like joining family and friends around a table laden with wine, good food and matzah. Did I said matzah? Oh dear.

Fact: Consumption of matzah is mandated by the Torah (Bible).

Fact: Many people, including me, rue the day, some 3500 years ago when we left Egyptian bondage so fast that the bread didn't have time to rise and we're stuck eating these freaky crackers for eight days. Seriously, like we didn't have a clue we were leaving?

Fact: Eating almost any amount of matzah causes me intestinal distress.

Fact: My children love the stuff, eat it non-stop, and never complain about a stomach ache.

So every year, I spend wonderful hours with family and friends, eating as little matzah as I can. Thank you G-d, for taking us Egypt and making the Jewish nation. Thank you, Holy One, for all the miracles and wonders these past 4,000 years. But Creator, regarding matzah, can we talk?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Getting Accepted

I've been fretting about my future this past month. In fact, I don't really remember being quite this nervous about anything, but that could be because memory is usually the first casualty of advanced age.

However, this past Friday, I received my acceptance letter into the nutrition internship of my choice - the object of my goal these past three years. Beginning in September, 2010, I will be a student of the Coordinated Dietetics Program at Cal State U, Los Angeles. Me and my friends, that is, since it worked out that nearly all my dearest student colleagues were accepted as well.

There are many people to thank for this, including my husband, my children, my extended family, my amazing professors (many of whom I've already thanked) and last, but not least, the Holy One. As I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday, I thanked Him right away, before diving into the litany of requests for success, health, livelihood, and redemption.

Although I'm not done by a long shot, I feel I can safely say that the road traveled so far has been fascinating. I'm met people I hope to know the rest of my life, and realize that with a lot of hard work, we can really change our world. Think global, act local. First we change ourselves, and then the world around us changes.

Thank you Holy One, for allowing me once again to realize it's all good. Now maybe, just maybe, I can finally get a good night's sleep.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cat In The House No More

Pesach this year marks the one year anniversary of the loss of our Baby Kitty. No, he did not succumb and meet his Maker, but we had to give him away. Our new neighbor is allergic to cats, and as the owner of the duplex, had a say in who lives here. That say meant Baby Kitty had to go.

Six years ago, we had a serious mice and rat problem. The pest control man called in tried to explain rodent psychology to me (picture me standing there, mouth agape, wondering if this guy was a serial killer in disguise). So I unilaterally made a decision to get a cat (I love cats) as rat psychology wasn't working. My son Matti requested a short-haired white cat, and so I went on Craig's List. Viola! In those days, pets could be listed as free, so off I went to UCLA with my 4 and 2 year old children to check out the free cat.

The students who owned BK had finished their Master's degrees and were moving. They had two cats, and decided to keep the other one. My two small children ran to the low table BK sat on and started aggressively petting him and screaming in delight. In return, he purred. I decided to take him right then.

The first night at home, he hid under the bed. Night 2, his first kill. Night 3, his second. Truth be told, this cat was giving me some serious nachas (Yiddish for joy). We remained mouse and rat free for the next five years.

BK was the most amazing cat, and loved by all. He was also quite large, weighing in at 19 pounds when we first got him. I put him on a diet, meaning measuring out his food, and he leveled out at 17.5 pounds. He spent the day sleeping, and the night bed hopping, sleeping with anyone who left their door open. That included guests. Neighbor children loved him too, and he was kind and gentle to all. To many, he seemed a higher soul. We were truly blessed.

We were BK's third owners, and from all reports, his fourth owners love him as much or more than we did. I'm sending you my love, BK, and prayers for long life. Thank you for being such a great companion to my family.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sparky's Story

Preparing for Pesach, or Passover, is very stressful. It requires a lot of detail work, like thoroughly cleaning your entire house, then buying only Kosher for Pesach products. The expense and the stress together, can be overwhelming.

However, all that changes if the people in your life help out. That helper happens to be my son Shlomo, aka Sparky. At 14, Sparky tends to be very emotional and given to loud outbursts - most of which you can't understand because he's the only person I know who needs subtitles when he speaks. I keep telling him he needs to slow down and actually pronounce the words he's saying.

Today, it wasn't what Shlomo said. It was what he did. He cleaned up his room, which he shares with a slew of brothers, chiding them, fighting with them, and ultimately just doing the job himself. Just like his mother. I'm so proud of him.

My other boys didn't want to help out, and indeed, one flat out refused, preferring to cry instead. My daughter pitched in reluctantly. But Shlomo, he's a leader. He's always there for his family.

I want to say publicly what I told to him, (and all my children): I love you!
Thank you Sparky. You brought us one step closer to the ultimate redemption. You rock!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Passing Grade

When a challenge comes my way, I always figure it's a test. Either G-d wants to know how I'll react to the latest outrage in my life (and He's keeping score), or I'm testing myself to see how I do. Either way, there's only one outcome: you either pass or fail.

So when a dear friend of mine expressed her wishes to certain people she knows, they too were being tested. They were being tested on their level Ahavas Yisroel, their love of a fellow Jew. It's the milk we're all nursed on; it's the Rebbe's deepest desire and greatest exaltation. And you just don't love your fellow Jew, you help them as well.

Unfortunately, in the case of my dear friend, the people being tested failed miserably. When my friend came to them, face to face, to request something, they said one thing, yet did another. And she is very pained by it all.

Which pains me. It's hard to stand by and see someone you care for suffer. It's hard to watch people you know fail so obvious a test. People who should know better. People who say one thing, like how we all need to increase our Ahavas Yisroel, and do another.

But making mistakes is what it means to be a human being. None of Judaism's patriarchs or matriarchs, prophets and sages, were perfect. But they were still role models -- they showed us that it's the struggle that counts, as well as the outcome.

So I stand before my fellow human beings today, still struggling. The outcome, well, we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bidding My Time

I'm sitting here at the public library right now, waiting. I've finished three finals. Tomorrow, I present for my fourth, with the dearest group of friends I can have. More than I deserve. We work as an amazing team, everyone doing their part and no one complaining (almost no one but we calmed her down).

It's the lull before the storm. It will be a late night putting the presentation together, as other group members are taking finals right now. Good luck ladies. In less than 24 hours, I'll be cleaning my house for Pesach and my girls will be laying back on the beach. It will be weird to be without them, but they will be in my heart, as I scrub away. Ah, bliss.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Taste of Redemption

We learn that the experience of Shabbat Kodesh (Holy Shabbath) is similar to that of the times of Moshiach (Messiah), meaning, peace reigns and G-dliness is revealed in all aspects of our world.

Today, I had a taste of Moshiach times, in other words, a taste of the redemption. Literally. Starting with a bar mitzvah, then a Shabbat Kallah, and then a Bris. All before sundown.

The eat-a-thon began around noon, in honor of a young man, just turned 13 years old, who read from the Torah during Shabbat services. The mini lunch is called a kiddish, and involves wine, cake, fish, meat, salads, and crackers, but in this case, no bread. I mention this only because bread technically makes a meal, and Jews are required to have three meals on Shabbat.

The Shabbat Kallah, which is a party dedicated to giving joy to an upcoming bride, had everything the bar mitzvah kiddish had, but with a heavy emphasis on cake. Frankly, there was no pretense at a meal. The Shabbat Kallah is for women, and women like cake. And cut fruit. Oh yeah, there was platter of cut vegetables and dip. Women like that too. Did I mention there were two chocolate mousse cakes and an assortment of cookies?

The bris, or ritual circumcision, was a full blown meal. Here a Jewish baby is legally* made a Jew to the joy of everyone present. A tent was set up in the backyard and people sat down to eat. Newcomers brought even more good news with them, since on Shabbat, with no phones or Internet, news travels by word of mouth.

If today's Shabbat was a taste of redemption, everybody is going to like it - even our enemies. Finally, something we all could agree on. Shalom!
*Jewish law requires a male child have a circumcision in order to enter the covenant of Abraham. Women, born perfect (obviously) have no such requirement.

Reading My Glob

I have a dear friend whose name is Chava. We daven (pray) at the same shul (Jewish house of worship) and I can boast that I am one of the few people that Chava has not openly argued with - a true miracle, due in part, to the fact that I love her. In all fairness, most of the bickering is due to Chava's inability to look the other way at what she believes are injustices, but she is quick to kiss and make up, which makes her all the more endearing.

Today, at shul, Chava leaned over and told me that she read by glob and loved it. I looked straight at her, blinked a few times and asked, "do you mean my blog?" Chava laughed and said, "is that what you call it?"

Yes, Chava dear, I call all this a blog. As promised, I blogged about your reading my glob. Thanks for being you, a lovable, kind and supportive friend. And thanks for taking the time to read and appreciate my view of my world. Come to think of it, maybe you're right - it might just be a glob, after all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Day On The Subway

I ride the subway nearly everyday, and it's actually quite relaxing. The cars are clean and you get where you're going a lot quicker than riding the bus above ground. But every once in a while, the police show up, and you never know what to expect.

The first time I encountered the police on the subway, it was two men and they were chatting away like they were off duty. But they weren't. It's a way for them to check everyone out - ticket holders are relaxed and non-ticket holders either bolt the car or settle down in their seats nervously hoping the cops will exit at the next station.

They didn't exit. They waited until the car was nearly full and started checking for tickets or bus passes. The young man sitting next to me had neither, and no ID. He was arrested on the spot, meaning handcuffed behind his back, and removed from the train.

So when the police came into my car today, I looked around to see who they might target. But they left as quickly as they came through a connecting car door - kept locked at all times. A former gang-banger sitting across from me and I exchanged raised eyebrows. I told him I didn't think anybody could go through those doors and he said they had a key.

Then he told me how, after getting out of prison, he risked riding the subway without a ticket until his first paycheck came through. That day be bought a pass. That day, the police checked for passes. I told him my experience, mentioned above.

We both got off at the same stop, and on our way out, we saw a man, in handcuffs, being arrested by the police. I turned to him and said, "I shouldn't have opened my mouth." He laughed and said, "better him than me." I had to agree, but thought to myself - too bad it had to be anybody.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The End Is Near

When you tell people that the end is near, they right away assume that the world is coming to an end. How silly. To me, the end is near means this crazy roller coaster of a quarter is nearly over and when it is, I will have less than 10 days to prepare my house for Pesach.

Which all adds up to four migraines this week and the only relief in sight is that the week is nearly over. Can it be that I am suffering from menopause? No hot flashes yet, but can they be far off?

Add to this the fact that my dear friend Maria and I have the distinction of being the co-chairs of the National Nutrition Month observance on campus next week. We've planned a three-day event with a walk-a-thon, literature hand-outs and healthy treats.

Frankly, I'm surprised I've survived this long. Putting on this event is akin to having root canal every day for a month. Obviously, my brain is fried, my energy strapped. My head is killing me. My last recourse: watching six hours of the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, non-stop. Ah, the joy.

Thank G-d the end is near.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Understanding G-d's Plan

I spent the entire day yesterday at a Nutrition and HIV Care Conference in downtown Los Angeles. I was thrilled to attend because I’m really interested in the subject matter and I relished the thought of being in a room full of registered dietitians.

The speakers were on time (for the most part), fascinating and relevant. I learned so much, and even though I nearly fell asleep after lunch (I brought my own sandwich – no kosher fare!), I still managed to keep up.

To end the conference, the organizers presented a panel of people we could question. Who were they? Longtime victims of HIV. I was floored. Before the two presenters could tell their story, a letter written by a third was read to us, stating how she would love to join us but couldn’t live with the stigma. The majority of people in her life did not know she was HIV positive and she couldn’t bear to be rejected again – she had already been rejected by her family. When we heard the other two stories, I can safely say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I know I was crying, both because of their pain and the injustice of it all.

We like to tell ourselves that G-d has a plan and it will all make sense eventually. Then you stop and think about all the pain and suffering people go through and have to ask – “is it possible to make sense of this?”

To all the people in the world who suffer alone, through no fault of their own, know that my heart breaks for you. I dedicate my future to making your life, nutritionally, better. In terms of me, that just might be G-d’s plan after all.