Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Pain I Own

It's Sunday, the weather is wonderful, and Los Angeles is, well, paradise. If it weren't for the fact that my two youngest children were bullied by classmates today, I might not have many cares in the world.

My son's bullying was physical, with him being kicked by an extremely obnoxious older school mate, Hashem should forgive me, whose made my baby his second victim in my family. My daughter, on the other hand, was at a birthday party, and "the cousins" as they are un-affectionately known, five little girls the same age and all, you guessed it, first cousins, told not nice stories about her. This reduced her to tears twice during the party, and had me beside myself when I came to pick her up.

These are children brought up in extremely religious homes, in families that have been Lubavitch, or Chabad, for many years. And it's an epidemic in our closed circle, and one that barely gets the attention it deserves. These children are admonished every day to "love their fellow Jew" yet do the opposite. I cringe at the thought that they get this from their home, but most bad habits, especially bullying, comes from there.

What to do? Well, I called the mother of the boy, but my phone went dead so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. But "the cousins"? My dear friend, whose daughter survived a particular bad bout of bullying in this same closed circle, advised starting with the principal and ending with Jewish Family Services. Don't let up.

It's not just a matter of empowering your child. My children know how I feel about them and how wonderful they are. It's about making them feel safe. They shouldn't have to go to school and feel threatened, not a school that hangs pictures of the Rebbe all over. Because I Rebbe I knew, the Rebbe I met, I Rebbe I love, wouldn't permit this behavior.

When my children are in pain, I'm in pain. I imagine the world in pain as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Will 12 Steps Be Enough?

Ever since my first pregnancy, I've suffered from optical migraines. Just what exactly are optical migraines I can't say. No one has been able to define it for me, not even the neurological nurse practitioner who spent an hour interviewing me the other day. I have no pain, just the inability to see straight for about 45 minutes.

Doesn't sound too bad, of course, unless you're driving, or reading, or sitting in class taking an exam. Then it becomes a real problem. So what's the cure?

Daily use of calcium blockers and Beta blockers, both of which are used to counter the effects of high blood pressure, which I don't have (thank G-d). But its use by me could lead to even lower blood pressure (and fainting).

I mean, I just wanted to rule out a brain tumor. I'm more than happy to pull over to the side of the road or take 10 during a test. But that's not all. I have to give up caffeine.

Which seemed okay as I sat in the doctor's office. I mean, after being offered the daily use of calcium and beta blockers, coffee seemed like a non-starter. Yeah, take it away. In fact, I went from there to the store and picked up both decaf coffee and green tea, and figured, whatever.

Well here I am, not quite a week later, saying wait a minute. I only started drinking coffee in October of 2009 and I've suffered from these puppies for nearly 19 years. What am I doing to myself? This is crazy. Forget it. I'm going back to the real stuff.

Which are the words of a true addict. The words of withdrawal. Ouch - I never thought I'd need a 12 step plan. But here goes: Hi, I'm Nana. I'm a coffee addict. . .

Monday, April 19, 2010

When Helping Is Hurting

I had a most bizarre experience today. On the subway coming home, a young black man stood up and asked if anyone could give him fifty cents. He assured the crowd that fifty cents was all he needed to take a bus. Sounded fair to me, so I dug in my purse and gave him fifty cents. Had I known the fire storm it would create, I would kept my two quarters to myself.

No sooner had I deposited the money into the young man's hand than another black man exploded with anger. How dare this young man impinge the dignity of all black men by begging. "Get a job" he screamed, and our beggar, I mean young man, wasn't about to take that retort quietly.

"Are you gonna hire me?" he asked the other man, who clearly avoided answering that question at first. "Why is it that Mexicans will help me, white people will help me, but n-----s never help me?" asked the young man. I wanted to melt into my seat. I wasn't alone. Most people stared straight ahead, or looked down. Anywhere but where the screaming was coming from.

These two men continued the same argument for at least two more stops. Everything calmed down after the young man exited, still feisty, still making his point about needing help and not getting it from his own. The other man, well, he offered the young man a hand, showing only one finger.

Frankly, I could see both their points. The young man wasn't asking for much - just fifty cents. But the other man, well, I noticed him when he first got on the subway and he seemed pissed off then too, so it didn't take much to send him over the edge. That edge was a black man, jobless, asking people for money. He didn't see much dignity in that.

However, the ensuing argument was devoid of dignity as well, and not just for these two men. For a full 15 minutes, we were all robbed of dignity.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Decision Making For Dummies

It's been a long, hectic week at school. It doesn't take long before assignments get away from you, and the stress comes in deciding how to use time wisely. For example, I debated for days about whether I should attend a child obesity conference at USC this Friday.

The conference is slated for 9 am to 5 pm, and I'm way behind on my reading and note taking. All my friends advised not going. My lab instructor ordered me not to go, in the hopes I wouldn't be so cranky next week. And I felt that going would take valuable time away from relaxation, as Friday is my only day off.

So at 6:30 am this morning, I decided to abort attendance. I'm staying home. But I still had this nagging feeling that I was making a mistake. After all, I hadn't cancelled and maybe the organizers would be mad at me for taking a spot and not showing up. I kept thinking about this possibility all the way to my car as I prepared for carpool.

Low and behold, the car would not start. The battery was dead, as in sleeps with the fishes dead. I know I should have been sad (it means saying goodbye to $100 for a replacement), but I was relieved. I had made the right decision, and as proof, the decision was made for me.

What a relief. Always good to be reminded that G-d rules!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spinning Wheels

I took a spinning class today at school. For those of you who are unfamiliar with spinning, and I view that as a gift, it's where a room full of people get on stationary bicycles with small seats the consistency of a rock and put pedal to the medal to music. Sounds like fun right? Maybe.

I say maybe because the pain hasn't kicked in yet. I know for a fact that my butt hurts, but I won't know the extent of the damage to my legs until tomorrow morning, when I try to get up and can't. I will then be reduced to throwing myself off the bed and crawling to the bathroom. I say this as a detached observer, kinda like a doctor looking at some one's x-ray and commenting of the advancement of the diseased state. What's in store for me is really quite that clear.

So why did I do it? For the same reason people climb Mt. Everest, sort of. Because it's there (and they have the money). For me, the class comes courtesy of my student fees, and I wanted to be with my friends. And more importantly, I want to lose weight and know, at my age, merely cutting back on the rations doesn't work.

So I threw myself into this amazing workout and survived. As a reward, I downed some chocolate mints with a cold water chaser. Feeling pretty good right now. I know I've got to give up something, and it won't be the spinning or the cold water. Or a good night's sleep.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembering the Holocaust Day

I admit it. I was drawn to attend today's Holocaust Remembrance Day in Pan Pacific Park, Los Angeles, because the Honorable Dan Gillerman was the keynote speaker. Frankly, I could listen to that man recite a recipe.

However, if I had known that it would take sitting through hours of speakers and singers (during the omer no less) before we could actually hear him, I would not have attended. G-d forbid we should forget the six million, but frankly, among Jews, there's no threat of that happening anytime soon.

I also feel that the sponsors of today's event (Los Angele Museum of the Holocaust) compete with the Museum of Tolerance for money and prestige, and therefore did not invite another of my favorite speakers, Rabbi Marvin Hier. So, in truth, I was bored, as was my guest, an old friend, and we both had a hard time remaining seated. Which only added to the guilt of my negative feelings when every time I got up, the row had to get up.

I am not the child of Holocaust survivors, but my husband is. He never attends these events. It's usually me, in large part because of my past fascination with the Holocaust. I've read countless books and watched endless videos much to my husband's distaste. He grew up with it as a fact of life.

My parents, on the other hand, admonished us never to forget, but I had no known relatives killed - my immediate family were already living in the States. My father fought in North Africa during WWII, and didn't have any horror stories to tell. Just your typical American Jewish family, barely Reform in observance, with plenty of the "other white meat" in the freezer.

In the end, Gillerman was worth the wait. He echoed the sentiments of all the previous speakers, including our Mayor (I didn't vote for him last time but I will this time - he's a hoot!). Iran's a problem, Israel the greatest salvation. And then he said a few lines that touched me. "If you want to know history, touch a stone. If you want to know the present, touch a flower. If you want to know the future, touch a child."

The greatest revenge against our murderers is not just living, Your Honor, but living as Jews. The next time you speak to a crowd of Jews as Jews, wear a kippah*. Remember that while Israel is important, terribly important, the One Above is the Boss. Not the IDF. The One Above protects us, THROUGH the IDF. Amen.

*Head covering worn by Jewish men to remind them that G-d is above them - aka yarmulka. Women are perfect - we don't need that kind of reminder about the Holy One.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Snuggle This

My family has been threatening me they would do it for quite some time. I begged them not to. It's a big step. It means accepting my age and/or taking up book reading as a hobby.

What am I talking about? Why the Snuggie I found gift wrapped on my bed when I came home today, of course. A bright red, flowing robe that stays open in the back but in the front has all the earmarks of Obie Won Kanobe, or a color-blind Franciscan friar. I was freaked out. Especially when they made me try it on.

In fact, I'm wearing it now. It's insidious, how the Snuggie makes itself at home on your body. One minute I'm crying about feeling like some old lady, and the next minute refusing to let the kids try it on. Hey, they know where they bought it. Let them get their own.

Truth is, I've really warmed up to the Snuggie. Hokey as the commercial is, it really works. Thanks kids, for thinking of mother. And special thanks to my husband, whose heavy hand I see in all this. No more walking around the house wrapped in pilloried old fleece blankets. I'll be cruising about in style.

When Even One Slice Is Too Much

Okay, I admit it. Staying up past midnight to eat the first pizza in eight days seems childish. It was my sons' idea to wait in line after Yom Tov (Passover) to order the pizza. It was my idea to eat 5 slices.

Yes, you read right. FIVE slices of pizza. Only the young can pull that off, or at least people with a functioning gastrointestinal system. How I suffered today for my folly! It was my first day back to school and I spent it running up and down the hallway between class and the ladies' room. I'm sure my professors thought I had a problem, and the truth is, I did. I still do.

And that problem isn't what we locals call Montezuma's revenge. The problem is the fact that the discomfort didn't stop me from eating two hot dogs with sauerkraut tonight, complimented with a side of oven-fried potatoes. Man, it was this side of heaven!

Yep, I'm in bed, actually feeling no pain. I've accepted my fate, which means I can relax and think about tomorrow. What will it be - kosher subway, or bagel and cream cheese? Who needs the stress - I'll have both!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shopping Chol HaMoed

Okay, my bad. I've been so busy cleaning and studying that I didn't do any shopping for Pesach. My husband did. He's bigger and stronger.

So after this past Shabbath, the last day of Chol HaMoed (intermediate day of the holiday), I decided to venture out to the kosher market and pick up a few things.

I'm not sure what happened between Friday afternoon and this morning, but people in the kosher market were shopping like their lives depended on it. I mean, how else do you explain frantic attempts to fill up shopping carts with . . .anything.

Now the women do it more with style. They talk to each other or on the phone and are definitely more calm about it, more methodical. But the men - oh my gosh. What is it with them? They're lucky they didn't put someone's eye out. I don't think they knew what they were buying. Their shopping carts were overflowing and they were blocking aisles.

Pesach does something to people - it makes them crazy. Could it be a deep seated fear among Jews of starving, most likely due to previous experiences with starving? Granted, for most people who care, food options are severely restricted during this holiday.

So I encourage my people to take a deep breath, and repeat: there are only two days left. Two days to submarine sandwiches. Two days to pizza with toppings. Two days to whole wheat toast with low fat cream cheese. Just hold on.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Setting Goals

Well, it's started again. The anxiety. Night sweats. Binge eating. Yes, you guessed it. Spring quarter at Cal State LA.

Monday morning, it was great seeing all my classmates again. It had been nearly a week and a half since our last communal nervous breakdown, you know, that thing called finals. Good to see everyone had survived. But this quarter is going to be different.

How? Because a group of us will be exercising and losing weight. Got it all figured out. CSULA is the home to a state-of-the-art gym, brand new, free to students. Downside: no overnight lockers and only two showers. But the thought of losing 30 pounds is so inviting, I can put up with the inconvenience. Oh my gosh, to be thin again.

Okay, I'm probably getting ahead of myself. Kinda like the women's magazines advertising how to look great in a bikini in one week. Not that they make bikinis my size anymore, but I have a goal. My goal is to lose weight. Another is to get straight A's in my classes.

Then there's world peace. Definitely gonna happen. Just wondering if world peace might be more achievable. . .