Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gam Zeh Ya'avor

Gam zeh ya'avor, this too shall pass.  One legend has it that King Solomon, although wise, was depressed.  He feared that the good in his life would end, but the bad would stay.  One day he said to his most trusted servant, I dreamed of a magical ring that will help me.  It has the power to give the wearer peace of mind.  It makes anyone who looks upon it happy when sad, but also sad when happy.  I want you to find me this ring.  The servant searched far and near.  For months the servant could find no one who had ever heard of such a ring.  Eventually, returning empty-handed to Jerusalem, the servant came to the poorest quarter of the city.  Wandering through the streets, the servant came to a tiny hovel.  Inside there was a poor jeweler.  The servant, desperate, entered the store.  He described the ring to the poor jeweler.  Without a word, the jeweler picked up a ring from his worktable, and engraved it with the words, Gam zeh ya'avor," "this too shall pass."

We are almost three months into this deployment.  It has had ups and downs, but this too shall pass.  As expected, orders have been problematic.  As expected, pay has been completely screwed up.  And as expected, we still don't really know what's going on.

Today, Sean bought me a ring.  On the outside it says Gam zeh ya'avor.  On the inside there's a special joke between Sean and me.  It says BOHICA, a great military acronym.  I love the combination of these two sentiments.

Gam zeh ya'avor.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It seems like it's been a long weekend, like somehow I haven't spoken with Sean in forever.

I don't understand how time moves.  December is almost gone.  The time Sean has been away has flown.  Soon we'll be more than half way through.  Still I feel as if this weekend lasted a week or more.  Perhaps it's sharing moments with friends.  We celebrated b'nei mitzvah with friends, and are preparing for a third.  In these family moments Sean is missed even more.  Perhaps it's Gavi.  He was sick last night.  I was not as sympathetic as I should have been (partly caused by the fact that today I had to get carpet cleanser as a result and partly caused by a total lack of sleep).

It is sad to see Jesse & Keren sick, just like any child, but Gavi is such a happy child that to see him sick is to watch a bird with a broken wing struggle for life.  Gavi has been especially clingy and cuddly.  It's both wonderful and sad.  I love to cuddle him, but know he misses Sean so.  Tonight I had to attend the bar mitzvah party with Keren and Jesse.  Gavi couldn't come.  Normally he'd love the time with his grandparents, but all he wanted was me.  (Of course he was better by the time I arrived home.  All's well that ends well.)

Tomorrow is another day, and one day closer to Sean's return!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream....

I love winter.  I love bundling up in my long wool coat.  I love my scarf, my gloves, my earmuffs.  I love my boots.  I enjoy shoveling snow. Even in March, when most people are thoroughly done with winter, I am not complaining.  To me winter is a time of mystery and promise.  Spring is not possible without the frost of winter.  Many plants and seeds must go through the freeze of winter before they can bloom.  The entire world is pregnant with anticipation.

What I knew, but never fully realized the impact of, is Sean's part in this.  I've loved winter since I was a child.  It has been my favorite season for a long time.  Having children, however, can change things. They impact your life in ways never expected.  For me and winter, it is not the children directly, but school hours.

I am NOT a morning person.  Even with a full eight to ten hours, I need light to wake.  Sean is an extreme morning person.  One note from the alarm clock, and he pops from bed fully awake, alert, and, worst of all, happy.  Even in the best of circumstances I take three to five minutes to even realize that annoying noise I hear is actually music, and means it's time to get up.  I am slow, off-balance.  I don't like to talk to anyone because it's much to much work to think.

How does this effect my love of winter?  It doesn't actually.  I effects my ability to enjoy winter.  For the past two weeks it's been pitch black when my alarm rings.  Even on the rare occasions when I've slept enough, I feel the effects of waking in the dark for hours after.  Sean has always taken the first shift of waking the children.  He makes the lunches.  He turns on the children's lights.  He begins the process while I sleep.  By the time my alarm rings, the first rays of light have begun to brighten the sky.  Waking in the darkness leaves me with a headache and drained feeling that lasts well into the morning, if not through the day.

I treasure Sundays.  They're a time to sleep into the light.  Full hours of of sleep, waking only when the sun's rays brighten my room.  Unfortunately, many Sundays are so full this is not an option.  Today was to be one of those rare days with nothing to mar the morning.  Of course mentsch tracht, Gott lacht (man plans; God laughs).  After three hours of sleep, which felt like twenty minutes, Gavi appeared in my room.  He had a stomach ache.  After a bit of cuddling, he began to throw up.  A few more hours of sleep, more vomiting.  Add in two cats wrestling on my bed (and my feet).  It was not a banner night for sleep.  Today I need to buy carpet cleaner.

On to karate grading (Jesse's is getting his brown advanced belt) and a bar mitzvah party, and I doubt sleep will come today.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pillow Talk

Hanukah has ended.  It was a long week, somehow longer without Sean home.  The hanukiyot were lit each night, but usually around 8:00 PM.  Highlights of the week included Sean skyping into the Pride of Israel Hanukah party, our havurah hanukah party, and dinner with friends (a lovely evening!  Thanks David & Lori!  and apologies for the kids who were completely off the wall).

For someone who isn't working, I'm remarkably busy.  Every day this week I was out and about meeting, shopping, supervising.  It's amazing.

Jesse has been pushing every button he can.  Before Sean left I said if he returned to a home with three kids it would be a miracle.  If there was ever a week to ship one of them to boarding school, it was this week. By today, the last day, we needed an early night.  Tonight was better though, and I'm hoping we all just needed some sleep.

All three kids are asleep now, and I'm watching "Pillow Talk" (Doris Day, Rock Hudson, and Tony Randall).  It's a great movie for fun and relaxation.  Worth the price of admission just for the apartment redecoration.

Evenings are when I finally get time to email Sean and share my day.  It's especially important when my parents are here, and I less privacy during the day.

But now, to sleep.  Lila tov.

Friday, December 3, 2010


My kids love Hanukah.  All kids do.  But somehow I think our celebration is a bit different than many.

We don't do a lot of gifts.  With all the family in the US, many gifts arrive as checks to be spent after the holiday, so there's not a lot to open.  We buy only one or two gifts for the kids, usually a large gift they have to share, and something special for each of them.

When there are gifts, and even when there were lots of gifts, we opened everything the first night.  It makes a crazy first night, but the rest of the holiday is focused on it's meaning- Jewish pride.  We light candles, sing songs, listen to Hanukah music, and eat lots and lots and lots of fried food.  The kids debate the messages, history, and mythology of the Hanukah story, making me very proud.

Keren is our hanukiyah setter-upper.  Each person lights his/her own hanukiyah.  Since everyone seems to have accumulated multiple hanukiyot, she asks each person which one s/he is lighting that night.  I help carry them out to our enclosed porch.  Keren then sets up the candles, carefully choosing colors and designs for the candles.  Tonight was the evening of the green shammash.  She carefully chose colors for each hanukiyah, then picked out six (yes, six!) green candles for each person's shammash.  Last night was blue night- all blue candles.  In our house that's 12 blue candles (including shammashim) just for the first night.

We light our candles on our enclosed porch.  We place a table in front of the window with foil covered baking sheets for the hanukiyot.  Windows from the porch into the house allow us to light our hanukiyot (six this year) then lock them safely in a room where the light can be looked upon, but the candles cannot be bumped.

Each night features a fried food.  
Day one always has latkes.  
Day two this year featured Chinese food: fried chicken wings, spring rolls, chicken dough balls, and general tao's chicken.  
Day three (Shabbat) will have latkes, potato and sweet potato, plus tempura.
Day four is the Pride of Israel Hanukah party- latkes and sufganiyot.
Day five will be our havurah Hanukah party- latkes, sufganiyot, and samosas.  We'll also have cheese and nuts in honor of the story of Judith**, associated with Hanukah.
Day six will bring us schnitzel and pumpkin fritters.
By day seven I will be sick of oil, both physically and mentally, but still we'll continue.  No plan yet for seven and eight, but ideas for zucchini pancakes, melawach, and cheese latkes, maybe even funnel cake or zeppolis.

Next week- diet!

**The custom of eating dairy and nuts comes from the story of Judith.  According to legend, Judith saved her village from the Assyrians.  The Assyrian army was besieging her village.  Judith charmed her way into the enemy camp with a basket of cheese, nuts, and wine.  She brought the food to the enemy general Holofernes (who is also said to be the general for Antiochus).  Holofernes consumed increasing amounts of wine with the cheese, which was very salty.  (Today, Syrian cheese is a very salty, but tasty cheese).  Eventually Holofernes became so drunk he passed out.  Judith beheaded him with his own sword, and brought his head back to her village in her basket.  When the Assyrians discovered that their leader had been killed, they left.  In this way Judith saved her people.  It became traditional to eat dairy in honor of her bravery.  

Holidays- Missing Him

Deployment requires constant reorganization.  First when the service member leaves; then, as time goes on you fall into a routine.  As new situations arise this routine needs to be re-evaluated.  Whether it's visitors, illness, or holidays (or in our case all three), the schedule needs to shift, to readjust, or to change entirely.  

Last week my parents arrived, as they do every year for Thanksgiving, turkey in hand.  It's a blessing to have them.  The kids are thrilled.  It's great to have help. But, it still requires a shift in dynamic.  There are two others using the bathroom, two more to feed, two more people to work into the schedule.  

Mom's and Dad's arrival coincided with all of us getting sick.  We all fell to it like dominos.  Mom and Dad being here allowed me to crawl back into bed a couple of days to nurse my cough and headache, getting more sleep than I otherwise could have.  Still, we're negotiating the extra people, the eating needs, the computer, and the television.  

The third piece is the holiday.  Holidays without loved ones, no matter where they are, are difficult.  

I've bought into the entire American Mythology.  I love the ideals of Thanksgiving. Realizing that historically the first Thanksgiving was nothing like what we learned about in school, the idea of a day of Thanksgiving shared by all citizens is a beautiful one.  It is a day that should be shared with family and friends.  It's a day of peace and appreciation for what you have.  And, like any holiday, it's a day that exacerbates the absence of a loved one.  

Our Thanksgiving was quiet.  Gavi and Keren were sick.  Keren was sleeping.  It was a quiet day with my parents.  Nice actually, but oh so different from our normal Thanksgiving celebrations.  Friday night we did it all again.  Shabbat brought a different sense to the family, our first Shabbat since Sean left with extra people at the table.

Hanukah has been a bit more hectic.  School and karate still happen.  We run home, set up hanukiyot, and eat fried food.  Many nights have been later and more hectic, but there are also the calmer, nicer moments.  Tonight our fried foods were Chinese chicken wings, spring rolls, and breaded chicken balls.  My parents brought Chinese food to the karate studio for dinner so that when we arrived home we could relax.  

Two nights into Hanukah, it's not sad, but somehow strange without Sean.  The rhythm is off, not bad, but not quite right.  It's part of the life.  We deal; we adapt; and we move on.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sitting at Home Eating Bonbons

The joke about stay-at-home parents is that they sit at home eating bonbons in front of the television all day.  For your information, at this very moment I am sitting in front of my tv.  The "Shakespeare Retold" version of "Much Ado About Nothing" is playing on the DVD, and I have just consumed two Lindt dark chocolate bonbons.

Today is Sunday.  I cherish Sundays.  It's the only day when I get to sleep in.  Not today though.  Backup a couple of weeks ago to when the garage door wasn't working.  It's fixed, but in the process I discovered that the key to the door is gone.  Since the main garage door is the only access to the garage, should the power go out, or the new opener fail to work, we would have no garage access without a new lock.  Not a problem, but for some reason it took over two weeks to get it put in.  Finally, this morning the lock was replaced.  This morning at 9:45 AM.  Not really a problem.  While I don't love waking early on Sunday, I also don't mind getting the day started for a good reason.  Of course, this Sunday followed a week of illness, Thanksgiving, and parental visits.

The latest school sickness has made its way through our home.  How is it that kids are sick for a day or two, but I am ill for a week.

My parents arrived on Tuesday, turkey in hand.  It's always great having our parents here.  Of course there are the things that make us crazy.  This will be no news to them.  With my parents it is the clutter that somehow builds when they are here, especially in the kitchen.  Usually I keep up with it, but being sick, it somehow seems to build faster and my patience grow thinner.  I leave it until I cannot take it anymore, followed by a flurry of activity, and, due to illness, my collapsing with exhaustion and a headache.

Jesse, having been amazing since Sean left, chose this week to be a typical teenager!

So, after a week with its normal flurry of activity, four illnesses, one whiney teenager, two grandparents, Thanksgiving cooking, Shabbat, a karate grading (Congratulations Jesse), I sit here at 10:30 PM on my bed for a brief break, eating two Lindt dark chocolate bonbons and watching my telly.  I am purposely ignoring the three laundry baskets, filled with twelve loads of clean laundry ready to be sorted for a short break of sitting at home, watching the telly, and eating bonbons.

Everybody needs a little chocolate now and then!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Technology is Amazing

Today was pajama day at school for Keren and Gavriel.  Pajama day invites the kids to arrive early at school for breakfast and games.  It's not Gavi's thing, but Keren wanted to attend.  It meant waking up earlier, and missing the morning iChat with Sean, but she really wanted to be there.

Determination is everything, and Keren was up and dressed in new pajamas within minutes of her alarm.  The boys stuck to a more regular schedule; waking more slowly; breakfasting at home.  By 7:15 AM both boys had their shoes on.  Gavi was sitting down to his breakfast.  Jesse's breakfast was on the table, and he was finishing up his davenning in the other room.  Sean was on the computer.

Keren and I headed out, leaving Sean to watch the clock and send the boys out to meet Lindy for their carpool.  Jesse babysits, and last year when I had food poisoning while Sean was gone Jesse got everone up, fed, and into the carpool with little help from me.  So, I knew it was possible.

It all worked.  I was able to get Keren to pajama day, and Sean, while half-way around the world, was still able to actively parent.  What a wonderful world.

Stay-at-home Parent... a misnomer

I am amazed at how much time being a stay-at-home mom takes.  I am constantly on the move.  If it's not the kids, it's the Rabbinical Assembly or a potential student, or basic household needs.

Still, it's not all mundane.  I am cooking more, which I've missed, and making the foods I'd rather have fresh like homemade bread and applesauce so wonderful the kids want it for dessert.  There are also the wonderful moments of insight caught in the in-betweens of the day.

I was sitting at the dojo last Thursday during the kids' karate classes reading.  There's so little downtime that I take any moments I can.  I am currently reading Walking the Bible.  One theme revisited in the book is the connection to the land, the lessons of the desert.

Since we spend about three hours at the dojo twice a week, we bring dinner.  It requires more planning and time than a dinner at home, but in the end is much healthier than we used to do.

I was eating a clementine, almost absent-mindedly.  I'd pull a section from the fruit with my teeth to keep one hand on my book.  I was suddenly aware of the burst of juice, the sour-sweetness that rolls over the tongue... and I wondered about my ancestors tasting an orange for the first time.  How miraculous that moment must have been- the textured rind peeled away to reveal the bright color, the smooth fruit on the tongue that suddenly bursts into flavor.

We all too often forget to look for the miraculous in the mundane.  We miss the rainbow in front of us.  It's these moments that remind us to look up.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank you for your concern

It's interesting being in this situation.  There are only a few reactions.

1) Disbelief- the people who simply cannot fathom that Sean and I do this voluntarily, as if the US Navy has somehow done something unthinkable in sending Sean away on orders.

2) Worry for Sean-  "How is he?!" begins each conversation.  I remind the worrier that Sean is in Okinawa, a perfectly safe civilian area.  They're surprised to hear he's purchased a bike or that he ever leaves the base.

3) Concern for us- "How are the kids doing?  It must be difficult"  Yes, we all miss him.  We'd rather have him home.  But we are also members of a volunteer military, and with that comes deployment.  The kids speak to Sean most mornings.  No, it's not the same, but it's very different than the deployments my in-laws lived through.  We share daily thoughts, frustrations, and news.  Sometimes it's hard to sign off from iChat, but we're good; we're safe; and while it isn't always easy, we'll get through this.

4) Support- Thanks for checking in with us.  We have our good days and our bad days.  Mostly I'm tired.  We seem to be getting everything done, but I know you're there if I need you.  Right now all I need is more sleep.  I'll keep you posted.

I'm happy to say that most people fall into category number four, although some with a bit of category one.  The best part of Toronto has been the community here.  It's the best place to be for us now.

Thank you for your concern and your caring.

Shabbat Shalom

I did not grow up in a fully observant home.  It's a decision I came to while in high school.  Looking back, I frequently wonder how I managed to survive without Shabbat.

While Sean prepares for Shabbat in Japan and the hazards of maid service turning off lights, I am juggling garage door repair, the barbecue (until I ran out of propane), the oven, homemade challah dough, and three children.  It's no wonder my pre-Shabbat shower happened Sunday morning.

Still, it was a wonderful Shabbat.  We sat down to dinner by 5:00 PM.  By 6:43 I was lying down and the kids were actually finishing the clean up from dinner, washing dishes, and even bentching.  (The debate over whether or not they needed to do a zimun was especially amusing.)  Each kid managed to come check in with me.  By 8:30 I told Gavi and Keren to get ready for bed.  I don't actually know if they did.  I was asleep shortly after.

Saturday morning I woke up rested for the first time since Sean left.  When people ask me how he's doing, I've taken to say, "better rested than I."  Gavi and Keren were amazingly awake with lego and marbles strewn across the kitchen floor.  Jesse was nowhere near awake.  I took the opportunity to head off to shul in time for Shacharit, a novel thing for me as Gavi and Keren can't seem to get moving out before 9:40 AM on a Saturday.  I managed to linger at shul until 1:30 PM, less unusual.

A miracle occurred.  Jesse got Gavi and Keren to clean up most of their mess in the kitchen, of course much was transferred to the basement, but that's where it should be.  We had a nice lunch of leftovers, which the kids grazed through all day.  No nap this Shabbat, but a great game of Trivial Pursuit with Jesse.  I still win, at least for now.

Saturday night I was back to lack of sleep.  Sunday was filled with organizing the house and a trip to the Ontario Science Centre.   By the evening I was yawning nonstop.  Dinner out because I couldn't bear to even think about cooking.

And the week begins again....

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Day in My Life

6:30 AM The alarm goes off.  I'm a bit foggy.  Last night, trying to get a handle on laundry and dishes, I finally went to bed at about 1:00 AM.  I take a minute or two to get my bearings in the dim light of dawn, stretch, and crawl out of bed.  Luckily Gandalf (our new-ish kitten) did not feel the need to lick my nose between 4-5 AM as he has the past two nights.

Jesse's alarm went off at 6:15, Gavi's and Keren's go off at 6:32.

I stumble (I am NOT a morning person!) to Gavi's & Keren's rooms; turn on their lights by touch through squinting eyelids, and then, holding on to the banister tightly with a second hand on the wall, I feel my way down the stairs to Jesse's room.  This morning a miracle occurred.  Jesse was out of bed, saving me 1/2 flight of stairs.  Jesse wakes up poorly, but if well rested, once up is wide awake and annoying to all.

By now, the lights have started to turn on my brain.  I walk back up the stairs better than I went down.  I check in with Gavi, who sits up, smiles, and says, "HI!"  (Sometimes I love this- like this morning.  Sometimes my fuzzy morning brain cannot deal with his morning person personality, a personality he shares with Sean).  I say, "Get dressed, and brush your teeth," and I move to Keren's room.  Keren, like me, is not a morning person.  I pull back her blanket, rub her back, and tell her it's time to get up.  In order to speak with Sean each morning, she's waking up 1/2 hour earlier than normal.  I half dress her each morning.  Once she's standing, I return to my room to throw on some clothes.

Dressed, I return to the kitchen, and turn on the computer to get iChat going.  Sean usually beats us to it.  We connect.  The kids slowly come in.  Jesse, now awake, is loud and annoying.  He manages to annoy his siblings, at least one cat, and usually me before he even gets his t'fillin on.  He davens in no time flat. I get lunches together, boil water for instant oatmeal, and defrost a good NY bagel for Keren.

"Go pack your bags!"  It's a phrase I repeat at least three times to each kid, sometimes many more.  "Where are your shoes?!"  Each child is supposed to have bags packed and shoes on before joining Sean on the computer while they eat breakfast.  Gavi is having oatmeal and hot chocolate.  Keren is having earl gret tea with milk and sugar and a plain onion NY bagel.  Jesse is whining about putting in his contact lens, but when he finally does, he eats oatmeal.  7:40 AM arrives.  Jackets go on.  Sean says goodbye.  Gavi starts each day with "I miss you Abba."  This morning he forgot.  "Don't forget to tell Abba I miss him," Gavi said as I buckled him into Lindy's car.  (Lindy is am amazing friend who drops the kids at school on her way to work.)

I go back inside to catch up with my husband for a little while.  The little while usually stretches to about forty-five minutes.  This morning I finish after twenty minutes with plans to daven eat breakfast (yesterday I ate a banana before a 4.5 hour morning of chores).  Breakfast is two eggs with some cottage cheese, flip through four days of newspapers (I hate throwing them out without a glance, but haven't managed to read a paper all week).  I read a few articles, but am too tired to focus.  I consider saving a few sections, but give up the ghost and toss the pile in the recycling.

Suddenly I realize it's 9:47.  Shoot, I have to be at the kids' school at 10:30, and it's a half hour away.  I jump into the shower, and out- literally 4 minutes.  I towel off, somewhat blow-dry my hair, toss on a skirt and sweater.  I put on my dolphin pin from the submarine service (it's three dolphins joined in a circle representing the submarine service- gold for the officers, silver for the enlisted, and, on the bottom of the circle supporting these two, a bronze dophin representing the families) and my poppy (with my dog tag given to me by the Marines for being a Key Volunteer and L.I.N.K.S. spouse mentor).  I'm in the car by 10:07.  I arrive at RHA at 10:33.  Parking is a problem, but I find a spot, practically run to the school, and slip in a couple on minutes into the introduction.  Jesse sees me.  I wave.

The Remembrance Day ceremony is "Songs that Fought the Wars".  They do a lot of American songs.  The ceremony is all about WWI and II.  There's no connection to anything after.  I stand for "Anchors Away."  I spend much of the ceremony biting my tongue to keep from crying.  I mentioned before- I'm a weeper, and I cry every year.  This year was harder.  The ceremony is over by 11:30.

Just the right amount of time to get to the RA meeting.  I arrive just minutes before it starts, two hours of meeting, lunch, catching up with a few colleagues.  I run home, in fifteen minutes I pack up dinner in a bag for karate class, and back out the door.  Back to school.  I arrive at 3:15, fifteen minutes early, set my cell phone alarm and try to catch a quick nap.  I doze in and out, and am surprised when the alarm rings.  Down to the school entrance, I catch up with a couple of friends, fill them in on Sean, get a hug.  Keren and Gavi come out to play.  We've got about twenty-five minutes before Jesse finishes.  It's a beautiful day, and Debbie also stays while the kids play.  Jesse arrives and we head off to karate.

Once there (4:35 PM) we grab knapsacks and karate bags.  I head to the post office and buy a coffee to keep me up today.  I meet the kids at the dojo.  Keren & Gavi have a quick snack.  Jesse and I review the laws of Nisuin that Jesse missed while we were away.  Jesse and I eat dinner.  Tonight it's tuna and crackers with cut veggies.  Gavi's and Keren's class passes quickly.  It's Jesse's turn for class.  Gavi and Keren change, and come sit with me.  They do their homework and eat dinner.  Five minutes before Jesse's class ends, Bev arrives to pick up her Gavi.  We have plans tomorrow.  We check in.  The kids run around.  Everyone packs up, and out the door.

7:05 PM we're in the car, music is on, and everyone is singing.  It's actually nice.  We get home by 7:40.  Backpacks and lunch boxes are  unpacked.  Karate uniforms go into the laungry.  Gavi still has homework to finish.  Jesse plays on his computer.  Keren is tired, and goes to brush her teeth and get ready for bed.

9:00 Gavi is finishing his homework.  I tell Jesse computer time is over.  I go to sing Shema and B'Shem HaShem, and the Tequila song (The kids' stuffed animals "dance" to the music at bedtime).  Jesse is not off his computer, and the next thirty minutes are spent arguing/debating/demanding computer time is over.  Jesse has lost his computer privileges for the next week.  He is surprising unperturbed.  Gavi is in bed by 9:20.  His light will turn out at 9:30.  I check my email and my FaceBook, and finish up in kitchen.  At 10:05 I shut the basement light.  Jesse's light is actually out.  It's incredible.  I grab the laptop and head up to bed.  I get ready for bed; catch up with my shows (on tape- VHS- the old-fashioned way), and start to write this blog entry.

It's now 12:02 AM. I'm finishing up Glee and this blog entry.  For the last hour Gandalf has been sitting on my feet and licking my hands.  He's clearly feeling neglected.  I'll rub his belly while Glee finishes.  Then lights out and sleep, until 6:30 AM tomorrow.  The laundry and the challah didn't happen tonight, but somehow it'll all get done.

Lila tov.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks from a Grateful Nation

This post needs a disclaimer.  I am a crier.  I cry at movies, commercials, Hallmark cards.  Any touching moment and the tears spill out.

Today is Veteran's Day in the US and Remembrance Day here.  I like the US tradition of two days better, one for those who serve and continue to serve- Veteran's Day, and another to remember the sacrifice- Memorial Day.  In any case my day will be one filled with those tears, tears of sorrow, tears of pride, tears for respect and for love.  It's always like that for me, but made harder with Sean away.  I think of the boys and girls, men and women, and their families who paid the ultimate price, and are given only the thanks of a grateful nation.

Sean, the kids, and I have been lucky.  In sixteen years of service he has been gone for no longer than two months at a time.  Should the Navy choose to send him home, we will cheer, make signs, and be at the airport as soon as we hear.  However, service to our country, the Jewish community, and the Navy is a commitment we made, and one we seek to honor. 

I honor and thank all who serve in uniform or at home.  When the news of so many who seek to avoid service is spread, perhaps we can take today to remember those who do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


It's always interesting being an American in Canada for the US elections.  Sean and I never miss an election, even when we've been away.  It is the right and, more importantly, the responsibility of every citizen to vote.  I enjoy the viewpoint of the outsider into American politics.  There are those who love the American system, and those who hate it, and every space in between.

I find that in a parliamentary system one of two things happens- either the government can be hijacked by small special interest groups because the government is so fractured they are needed to create coalitions (Israel) or there is a tendency to govern from the center so as to maintain the government (Canada).  In the US changes in government bring drastic swings in public policy.  It can lead to renewal, but it can also lead to divisiveness.  Our current world situation lends itself much more to divisiveness.  Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."  There is a culture of fear that has permeated American politics since September 11, 2001.  It leads to anger, prejudice, and sweeping generalities.  It leads to isolationism, and allows hate to spread unchecked.  It also leads to apathy by those who feel that cannot create change.

There are wonderful grassroots movements promoting positive messages- think, build, take a stand!

Check out the Al Tirah! Fear Not! campaign- put together by Jewish Funds for Justice.  Enough with the hate.  It's time we remembered our ideals!

Had to share...

A message left on our answering machine at 8:30 AM one Shabbat in December years ago-

"Rabbi, I just want to make sure that there's a bat mitzvah today, and that there's a party afterwards.  My cell number is xxx-xxxx.  Please let me know because I'm involved in the party, and want to make sure I should be coming."

Strange Changes May 2010

It seems Sean and I have spent the last year and a half traveling past each other, literally with USCJ and the Navy- frustrating, but doable, tiring, but doable.

Somehow the past two reserve trips were different.  I can only attribute this to the pending deployment.

It's four days, just four days, and at a chaplains' conference in Atlanta.  Still, it's different.

First the normal reaction- I don't sleep, maybe four hours a night.  The lack of sleep leads to an excess of adrenaline and a sometimes jumpy pulse.  From past experiences the sleeplessness lasts just over two weeks.  There's nothing I can do for normal reserve time, but it's a comfort to know it won't last the whole deployment.

Again, this four day trip is different.  There's a weariness that set in as Sean said goodbye on Sunday.  Usually I sort of sleep through these goodbyes.  I mumble, "I love you.  Safe trip."  It started the same way, but wakefulness arrived with Sean's squeeze of my fingers.  Those who know me know 6:20 AM is not an hour I often see, yet there I was, wide awake, waiting until I could wake the kids and run our errands.  There's a strange feeling in my heart, a worry, an emotional twinge I can't quite put my finger on.  It's just Atlanta, just a chaplains' conference.  Yet....

Freedom Is Not Free aka Why We Do This

I love the stories when Sean comes home.  I always ask him to write them down, although he rarely does, especially the halakhic issues.

Seven days of Hanukah
No Passover Matzah in the great state of Hawaii
What do you do when your week has nine days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Saturday)?

This year's fun was...
Oh My God the communion wafers I have are hametz!
I'm saving my Passover grape juice for Easter Sunday

Whenever Keren (and the boys too) gets upset or worried about the deployment, I remind her of the day Sean told her.  He spoke of honor and right, of the importance of doing this for the children, especially the girls burned with acid for the crime of going to school.  When people ask how do we do this- that's why- to serve our country, for honor, and for the rights of all people.  It seems corny, like Superman, but then I think about my favorite monument on the Mall in Washington, the Korean War Memorial.  It's my favorite because it says plainly, "Freedom Is Not Free."  This is the message of my Judaism and my patriotism, the values I hold dear.  How do we do this?  I answer how could  we not?

Jump to Pesach 2010

I've been waiting for this day for sixteen years.  Our first day on active duty, August 7, 1998, two US embassies (Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) were bombed simultaneously.  Sean was in the air with the Marines as I watched the Twin Towers fall.  Yet somehow the moment was always averted.  So when Sean came home that day in January to announce he'd be leaving around October 1, I immediately sprang into action.  What would we need to do; what could I do as the chaplain's wife and a rabbi?

It's a strange thing- the military, so American, and yet so foreign to most of us.  Growing up middle class on Long Island the military was history- Roosevelt Field, WWII, Levitt homes for soldiers returning from war, a plaque on the synagogue wall bearing the names of congregants who'd paid the ultimate price.

Still, my first year of rabbinical school, when presented with chaplaincy as an option, I was hooked.  What a wonderful way to serve my country, my community, and my calling.  Unfortunately, a bad knee and asthma made me medically unfit.

Enter Sean the following year.  The son of a career navy man, Sean knew first hand what a chaplain could do for a family.  If accepted into rabbinical school he would go into the chaplaincy, at least for one tour of duty.

Two years later Sean received his JTS acceptance, and we were off to Israel as newlywed students.  During our year in Israel we tried to organize the paperwork, not easy half-way around the world, including a trip from Jerusalem to Haifa to meet a US ship in port for Sean's physical.  Then, when faced with our first separation before our first anniversary I balked.  Using the best artillery in my arsenal, I quoted Torah to keep Sean with me for our first anniversary.  It worked, and six months later I was happy and proud to stand by him as he took his oath.  That day has provided us with great experiences, lots of fun, and humor.  It was October 31, 1994, a perfect day for Sean to don his new "costume."

But while Sean wears the uniform, a military career is a family effort.  Swearing-ins, promotions, good times and bad, as the spouse, I've been as much a part of these as Sean.  I've been congratulated, picked on, and confided in.  The chaplain's spouse can play as important a role in the command as the chaplain him/herself.

For twenty-two years my experience with the military was through books, movies, and the news.  Suddenly, with Sean in my life the military was family.  I met my future father-in-law at a family get-together welcoming him home from a Med cruise.  A year and a half later I was rescheduling my wedding to accommodate my in-laws' military move.

Postscript- (I've mentioned before) It's an adage that when the sailor deploys things break.  There was one Med cruise when my mom-in-law and a friend had so many car problem, they packed up all the broken parts, and shipped them to the their husbands' ship for the guys to sort out whose was whose.  As soon as Sean told me about the deployment we began to joke about what would break.  We bought a new home six months earlier.  The bathrooms are original- 1963.  The oven, stove, and dishwasher are at least thirty years old.  The roof has 3-5 years left in it, the fence is falling down, and the chimney needs work.  (We've since fixed the chimney.)  Sean was betting on everything.  I bet on the oven to break two days before American Thanksgiving.  It's a wall oven, and the size is hard to find.  By the way, the oven temperature knob broke two days before Passover during a two week warm-up.  This, along with a raging case of food poisoning just twelve hours after Sean left, was our trial by fire.  We're ready for anything.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Catching up to Today

I didn't write much while at Camp Lejeune.  I was pregnant or with a new born, plus a toddler, and a pre-schooler.  We were isolated.  CLMCB empties each weekend as families take advantage of the North Carolina weather and it's proximity to great trip spots.  With Sean's chapel responsibilities, we were tied to the base.  Since we don't drive on Shabbat, and we were three miles from the chapel, Sean biked and we stayed home.  We got used to artillery fire causing all our pictures to be crooked.  We did our time, but knew it was limited when Jesse came home from school around Thanksgiving asking, "Are they going to make me celebrate Christmas?"  The isolation we could deal with, but the peer pressure, even for a pre-schooler to conform, we felt this wasn't fair.  We looked for another duty station with a larger Jewish community, but there were no available postings.  It was time to go home.  Sean applied to, and was hired by Bellmore Jewish Centre, just two miles from my parents.  Long Island was not what it once was Jewishly, but it was a good transition, and great for family.

When Beth Tzedec opened for an assistant rabbi, we jumped, we packed, and we moved.  Reserve duty continued, two days a month, two weeks a year.  After three years at Beth Tzedec, Sean received word his unit was set to deploy June 2008.  Beth Tzedec graciously extended Sean's contract to take him to the deployment.  Never count your chickens until they hatch, and never trust military orders until the person is on the ground (and sometimes not even then).  The deployment was post-poned, Sean's orders ended, and he was transferred to a new SeaBee unit.  Pride of Israel came calling, and we happily moved just a bit north to where we are today.

Our World Changes, Again...

This entry was made after the events of 2001.  Since the last dated entry Gavriel was born, July 17, 2000. Throughout the pregnancy Sean kept calling Gavi "The Stealth Baby".  At each visit to the midwife, just as she found his heartbeat, he'd roll away making us start all over.  Throughout the pregnancy Sean was counselling a couple dealing with problems in their pregnancy, and eventually a still-birth.  It kept him distant and worried.

My parents arrived two weeks before Gavi's due date (July 17).  The morning of the 17th we all (with the exception of Sean, who had broken his ankle the week before, and was at work to get some rest) headed off to the Bishop Museum to see the T-Rex Named Sue.  Jesse was so excited.  As we were driving I felt a few twinges, but wasn't worried.  Jesse took one close up look at the full size teeth of a T-rex, and spent the rest of the morning fascinated, but in my arms.  By the time the planetarium show was over it was time to pick up Sean and head to Tripler Army Medical Center.  We welcomed Gavi not too long after.

Just 10 months later came the last entry (May 2001).  We PCS'ed in June, headed for Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base with stops in Merrick, NY (visiting my parents- I think the kids believe that whenever we move we have to stay with their grandparents for at least a month.) and Norfolk, VA for an officer's school Sean needed to complete.  We headed to Camp Lejeune in mid-August, staying at the BOQ for about two weeks.  My father came down with us to check out our new digs.

On September 10, 2001 the kids, my dad, and I piled into our van to head to New York for six weeks while Sean was at Mountain Warfare Training Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Sean was leaving the following morning. The plan for Dad, the kids, and me was to drive to Dover Air Force Base and stay the night in the military hotel there.  I was driving when we got to Dover.  It was the middle of the night.  Dad and the kids were sleeping, but I was wide awake.  I figured I'd drive until I was tired and then switch with Dad.  Maybe we'd get home a day earlier.  Maybe we stop.  We kept going.

We crossed the Verrazano Bridge just moments before the first plane hit the WTC.  As we crossed the bridge I tuned the radio to 1010 WINS for the traffic report.  We heard the news, then crossed to a clear place where we could see the smoke pouring from the towers.  It's an image burned in my memory.

Had we stopped at Dover AFB we'd have been stuck there indefinitely.  Sean, safe on a plane with a battalion of Marines was grounded near Salt Lake City.  The world had changed.

I wrote these words on September 25- It's been a year since I've ventured into the heart of New York City.  So much has changed.  There's an eerie feeling as I ride the train.  I am overtaken by a need to hug my children close; a need thwarted since they are safe at home with their grandparents.

One year later, I wrote this:

Where were you when the WTC fell?  That question has replaced "where were you when Kennedy was shot?"  Or for a younger generation, "Where were you when John Lennon was shot?"  Like everyone else, I remember the morning with great clarity.  I had just arrived back in NYC after sending Sean off to his first Marine deployment.  He was in the air as we crossed into NY, and watched the Towers burn.

A year later a lot has changed.  Sean was transferred to the base chapel so he won't be deploying.  We have a new baby girl, Keren, born April 25, 2002, and our country is at war with terrorism.  But as we come together to remember the events of 9/11 across our country, I took part in a very different memorial.  At Camp Lejeune we spent 9/11/2002 building a sukkah for the base chapel.  I could not think of a better way to fight those who would crush religious freedom than to celebrate it by working with US Marines and Sailors building a sukkah on a military base by the chapel building shared by all religions.

Now & Then

May 17, 2001

My last entry about our service (my Hawaii entries) dealt with the sinking of Kursk.  Now as I prepare to PCS (Permanent Change of Station- a move), I look back and realize it hasn't been a banner year for the submarine service.

On Friday, February 9, as Sean & I were preparing for Shabbat the phone rang.  In the early hours of the day, the USS Greenvile, one of the finest boats on the waterfront, collided with a Japanese fishing boat, the Ehime Maru, sinking it, and and sending it to the Pacific bottom with eleven people.

Oddly the entry ends there.  I don't know what I was planning to write.  It was a significant day for us. Sean immediately reported to work, spending the next 24 hours getting people off the sub and helping to deal with the fall out.  I quickly learned to bake challah, and took over at AJC.  

It was a sad day, one that cursed the Greenville for a long time to come.  The Navy, probably like all services, is superstitious, and the Greenville was plagued with problems and accidents for years to follow.  Sean and I joked about buying them a t'fillat haderekh to hang in the sub.  I think we eventually did send one after Sean returned to the Reserves and we were living on Long Island.

Still the hard days are the days that remind you why you serve.  Sean's current orders are being extended piecemeal.  It's frustrating, not so much for the family and me, we were prepared to see him off, and to places much less hospitable than Japan, for seven months.  It frustrates me on behalf of the people we serve.  They deserve better.  The deserve a chaplain and a rabbi who doesn't fly through, but who is there for them.  Our service-people in Afghanistan and Iraq should have a chaplain of their faith for significant days, whether Hanukah or Pesach to minister to them.  There is clearly a need, and while the everyone acknowledges this, no one seems able to fix it.  It frustrates me, for it rubs against the grain of service that we do.

The Greenville incident was a terrible one.  It took Sean from our family for Shabbat.  It was not the only terrible incident.  Sean spent much of my pregnancy with Gavi agonizing because of problems in another family's pregnancy, with the baby not making it.  There was a suicide one Thanksgiving.  

Holidays are taken; significant moments affected, but it's worth it when you know the reason and the good.  This deployment has reason and good, but if it's cut short or misused than we've lost a major opportunity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hanukah 1999

We've all heard the old joke... a rabbi, a minister, and a priest are invited to the space shuttle...  Punchline- the rabbi says who got to see anything? Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv, Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv.  But what do we do when datelines really do get in the way of Jewish observance.  There's the simple, but avoidable quandry of calling motzei Shabbat to a place where it's still Shabbat. But what do you do when your weekend is Shabbat, Sunday, Shabbat?  As the wife and rabbinic consultant to the Jewish chaplain at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii this is an issue with which we really do grapple.

As the Jewish chaplain and a chaplain to a submarine support command, my husband's job often takes him to Guam (about once a quarter).  Guam is the first inhabited island in the man-made time zones which cover our globe and manage our lives.  Hawaii occupies the last zone.  That means we're the last Kol Nidre and the last Neilah.  We're the last to say l'shana haba'ah birushalyim on Pesah.  It also means that when leaving Guam on a Sunday morning, you arrive back in Hawaii on Shabbat afternoon.  Many questions arise.  Is it Shabbat if you didn't have Friday as the onset?  Can you have eight days in a week?  What do you daven, Mincha l'Shabbat or Mincha l'yom rishon?  Are you obligated in Musaf and Havdalah again?

With email and phone we have the opportunity to share these halakhic quandries with other colleagues, but travel for the navy can be sudden, so Sean turns to me as his wife, rabbinic colleague, and hevruta to puzzle out the answers to questions Joseph  Caro never dreamed of.

Other questions:
Keeping kosher on a submarine
Can you work submarine toilets on Shabbat
            and our next issue...
What do you do when you lose a night of Hanukah?

My own personal issues... How to fit in a community where there are very few Jews, even fewer professional wives, and how to maintain your own professional identity as a rabbi.

Terrorism & Amalek circa October 2000

Late October 2000

While the bombing of the USS Cole has been relegated to the back pages or the last news story, it is still very much real for us here and on US military bases around the world.  As we lay our dead service people to rest, we must continue to remember their gallant sacrifice and pray that a time will come when such sacrifices are no longer necessary.

The Torah teaches vayavo Amalek vayilcham Am Yisrael bRefidim; and Amalek came and fought with Israel in Refidim. (Exodus 17:8)  When the battle had ended, we read "And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Write this for a memorial in the book, and put it in the ears of Joshua, for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.'"

God promises to blot out any mention of Amalek.  Yet, in Deuteronomy 25 we are told, "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, at your coming forth out of Egypt. How he met you by the way, and killed the hindmost of you, all that were feeble behind you when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God...  You will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heaven.  You will not forget."

Even as we are told to blot out the name of Amalek, we are commanded never to forget!  Our dead have been laid to rest, but our hearts must make every effort to remember them.  If we allow their memories to slip from our hearts and our minds then we once again open ourselves to attack.

For the honor and memory of our nation and those who serve let us blot out the remembrance of the horror of this cowardly at of terrorism from under the heavens.  However, you shall never forget their sacrifice.

A Regular Day 2010

Today Sean joined us for breakfast.  It definitely helps get the kids up knowing they're going to see their Abba.  They don't have a lot to say most mornings, although Jesse wanted to tell all about last night's concert.

After I put the kids in the car with Lindy (who is a god-send for taking the kids to school each morning), I go back in to talk with Sean for a little while.  We get to share what's happening each day.  Sean is working to rename the chapel at Camp Courtney.  We discussed ideas and opinions.  We've always functioned as a team.  We're best that way.  We bounce ideas; we share opinions.  I may not wear the uniform, but we serve together.

Bev Brandhuber used to say, "If Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy."  The effect the spouse can have on a military family is incredible.  It took the military a long time to realize, but families serve together.  Not only is Sean serving our nation, but the children and I, and every military family is serving.  If you don't believe in the service as a family, you can't make it.

People wonder how I can be so calm about Sean's service; how can I want him to go to Afghanistan?  But this is my service.  To share Sean, to know that he provides that home, that connection for sailors and marines, to be a part of the service is a proud tradition.  If that means Hanukah or Passover in Afghanistan, than we are happy and proud to serve.

This started out as a simple, how was my day.  Although my day was filled with a lunch with Erin & David, former USY staffers of mine,  picking up children, making dinner, and a run to Home Depot for a new garage door opener, it's my service, and part of that service is to make sure my children can serve through this deployment with as little pain as possible.

Tonight's project was dinner.  I made pizza dough.  We covered the table with flour, making it into a giant dough board.  Jesse, Gavi, & Keren each took two pieces of dough, and created dinner.  Toppings of sauce, cheese, broccoli, spinach, chopped tomato, and garlic oil were in the center.  They each made the dough into calzones, pizza, and garlic knots as they wanted.  It was fun, and gives them something to share tomorrow morning, and had them talking about calzones with Abba.

I've been watching the new Hawaii Five-O.  It gives just enough to bring up our Hawaii memories, and makes me wonder at the changes to the places I recognize.  It feels just a little like home.  It's like I wrote earlier, Hawaii gets under your skin and becomes part of you- kama'aina.  It somehow connects me to our start in the Navy sixteen years ago.  It doesn't hurt that the cast is kind of hot either.

Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat...

In 1985 that verse opened my college application essay for Brandeis University.  I wrote about the interconnectedness of the Jewish people.  I knew I wanted to learn more about the Jewish community. When applying to JTS I said, "I want to change the world one person at a time."  I was unsure where my rabbinate would take me, but I knew it would be to a place I could reach out to and connect with individuals to educate them about Judaism. Never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen the path my rabbinate eventually followed.

"All who are hungry, let them come and eat.  All who are needy, let them come and share..."  This has become a theme in our lives.  "Hungry"- not just for food, although for the single sailor, marine, soldier, or airman who eats either in the mess or alone in his/her apartment, this is often the case, and we send everyone from our home having shared a good meal, or at least a nosh, with a doggie bag for at least one more home cooked meal.  But more so, it is a hunger for spirituality, companionship, and family.

I wrote these words in September 2000, but they are still true today.  Sean and I have always kept an open home.  It is a home for all who are searching, and it is the key to changing the world.  From Honolulu to Camp Lejuene, from Bellmore to Toronto our greatest success has been through our open door.  The strength of Judaism is in the bonds among Jews.  Wherever I have been, I have known there is a place for me.  Wherever I am, I try to provide that place.  I've seen the difference this connection can make.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Always Something...

There's an adage among Navy spouses that something always breaks when the military member deploys.  On one of my father-in-law's deployments the car (and a shipmate's car) had so many problems, the wives put all the broken parts in a box and mailed them to the ship.  They enclosed a note telling the guys to figure out which parts went to whose car.  It's a fun memory, and a great way to deal with an annoying situation.  When Sean left just before last Passover two things happened, I immediately came down with food poisoning, incapacitating me for three days, and the oven temperature wouldn't regulate.  The food poisoning passed, and we figured out the oven problem just after Sean returned, but as I said it's always something.

Sean and I have been taking bets on what major appliance will go when he leaves.  I was prepared for anything, so I thought.  We're eighteen days into the deployment, and the first thing has broken (well except for the iron I dropped, but I didn't like that appliance anyway).  Good money was on the oven baking its last challah with a close second to the dishwasher.  The bedroom TV was running a close third.  We were wrong.  While the TV has a tendency to turn on and off by itself, it's hanging in there.

Tonight the kids and I attended a Safam concert at Beth Tikvah synagogue.  Safam has been playing together for 36 years this winter.  I've been listening to them for almost 30.  The kids have been raised on their music.  We have a Halloween tradition of doing something special as a family that gets us out of the house.  The Safam concert was just perfect.  Jesse sang along to all the songs, as did I.  Gavi and Keren knew a fair share.  Jesse bought the Safam Anthology, and got all their autographs.  It was a lovely night.  We arrived home just before 10:30, pulled into the garage, got out of the car, and nothing.  The garage door isn't working.

In all our discussions of what might break, never did we mention the garage door opener.  So much for being prepared.  This first happened last week, right after I broke the iron and gave myself a black eye.  I mentioned it to Sean.  He said, "Yeah, that happens sometimes."  Interesting that he never mentioned it.  Last week it wasn't such a big deal.  The door was shut, and the car on the outside.  Tonight the door was stuck open at 10:30 PM.  It couldn't stay open.  I knew to manually close it I had to release it from the electric opener, the question was how.   After some doing, I was able to disconnect the garage door opener from the door.  I locked up the bicycles, since we never got the key to the garage door when we bought the house (it was long lost), and I closed the door. It's done now, but our door also lacks a handle on the outside.  I cannot reopen it, because I can't get a proper grip. So tomorrow I have to search out garage door repair.  Goody.

There you go.  One broken appliance, seven months to go.  It's always something.

The Sinking of the K-141 Kursk

August, 16, 2000

This T"u B'Av, a day in the Jewish calendar for joy and love, the world watched as 116 men slowly perished on a Russian submarine at the bottom of the Barents Sea, only 330 feet from the surface.  Granted, weather conditions made rescue nearly impossible.  However, I, and countless others, was still glued to the TV screen checking the news every two hours as I nursed, then one month old, Gavriel.  At one time the Soviet Union had the best submarine rescue system.  With the fall of the USSR those boats were sold for scrap, too costly to maintain.

The US immediately offered aid, in any form needed, but the offer was ignored, neither accepted nor rejected.  Three days after the sinking Russia finally asked for help from Britain.  Why did it take three days, each day the possibility of rescue diminishing.  Can we, as human beings, be so xenophobic as to allow the lives of 116 to slip away due to pride, fear, or worse, political agenda.

In Judaism, we are taught saving a life overrides all.  Usually we refer to this a pikuach nefesh, but that does not fully cover the need.  The rule of pikuach nefesh refers only to the immediate community.  Rather, it is for reasons of Tikkun Olam that we care for the greater human community.  Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is especially important during the season of Tisha B'Av, a time when the Great Temples of Jerusalem were destroyed, the city burned because of sinat hinam, senseless hatred.  Once again in this season souls are allowed to slip from this world because we hate and fear more than we love.

Not only among countries does this feeling flow.  While many rejoice in the choice of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate.  Again feelings of sinat hinam flow, from within the Democratic Party itself, from the head of a NAACP chapter, Louis Farakhan, and Al Sharpton.

October 31, 2010

It's amazing how human nature never seems to change.  These words could have been written in so many moments before the sinking of the Kursk, and in so many moments since.  Sometimes we seem to be on the brink of destruction, but the I look back on moments like this, and I wonder if we always seem to be ready to hate.

Life lessons in 1999 and 2010

June 15, 1999

Just about 14 years ago I sat down to write an essay for my application to Brandeis University.  I wrote about being part of a people, a greater community, where I'd always had a home.  I was talking about the Jewish People, but I know there's a greater human community that I've been touched by, and I hope I've touched it as well.

Since arriving in Pearl Harbor I've had time to think and focus in a way I haven't since college.  Brandeis did that. There were more life lessons than practical experience, but university is a place to be molded, a place to create, not a place to enter the robotic assembly line of "real life."

I arrived hoping for a job, but found none.  After some (okay, much) panic, I've been able to separate from the idea that I had to work.  I am not, and will not be defined by a job.  For the first time in a long time I feel like writing, like I did at Brandeis, to pour out feelings and emotions, and make them permanent.  I've been thinking of who I am, and of those who helped create tis person called Jennifer, or more formally- Rabbi Jennifer Rachel Elkin Gorman.  It's a long name, but I like it because it describes so much of me.  I've decided to write letters to the these who were most involved in creating that incarnation.  People should be thanked for the gifts they give.

October 31, 2010

Once again the US Navy has left me without a job.  I left my position at USCJ because of the hours and travel required.  It's not something I can do while functioning as a single parent.  The Navy Times published a study while we were in Pearl Harbor about military spouses' ability to work while married to an active duty military member.  The likelihood of employment dropped ten percent for each year of post-high school education.  I have ten years post-high school, four for my BA, six for my MA and ordination.  That means I have a 100 % likelihood of not being able to find a job while married to an active military member.  It's a statistic that Sean and I have laughed at many times, but it's played out true.  When the initial idea for Sean's unit to deploy came through, we looked at my position, and realized pretty quickly it was playing true again.  We could laugh about it or cry.  While there a few moments of despair, it was not going to change, so we embraced the laughter instead.

We also found ourselves appreciating, once again, the family and friends we have.  I know Sean's in good hands, and he's comforted by the amazing support system we have here.  In the past twelve hours, two friends have called just to check in.  Just knowing the support system is there is a great comfort for both Sean & me.  The kids teachers check in on them, and with me.

It was good to be home for Shabbat, to be back at Pride of Israel.  Everyone wants to know how Sean is doing.  I feel we've been traveling for so long, that somehow Sean's been gone for months already, but it's only been eighteen days.  We have a schedule now, at least taking care of our physical lives.  The emotional lives may take a little longer.  For the kids it's been up and down.  Before Sean left we went to dinner.  While waiting for our meals we all wrote down the "Things We Will Miss."

Things Sean will miss: the inbound monkey, endless conversations about submarine operations on which I know nothing, face-licking by the cat at 5:00 AM, cupcake challah, seltzer club

Things Keren will miss: Abba, the "You have one big eye," Abba's good food, seltzer club

Things Eema will miss: cups of tea, chocolate milk, or hot cocoa appearing from no where, the inbound monkey, help with mornings while I'm unconscious, sharing the blame

Things Jesse will miss: EVERYTHING

Things Gavi will miss: beating Abba, Gandalf licking Abba's face to wake him up in the morning, throwing the inbound monkey at Abba, Abba's good food

We miss all these things, but mostly the day to day presence.  It's all the little things that make up a life together.  There's not much to say when we're on the computer, because all those things you talk about, all those things you share are important in the moment, the details that make up life.  Technology is a wonderful thing.  We've been sharing breakfast, and the kids love it, but it lacks all the wonders and moments that make a life.  I didn't think of it at the restaurant, but I miss the laughter, especially at night when were in bed talking.  I miss the warmth on the other side of the bed (the giant pile of laundry doesn't compare).  I miss the sharing that somehow doesn't seem to happen through a computer screen.

When we arrived at Pride yesterday morning, Keren and Jesse fell into their comfort zones, but for Gavi the weight was back on his stomach.  Being there without Abba makes him sad, and he's stated he doesn't want to go on the bima until Abba comes back.  He simply stayed next to me.  This too shall pass, but it's not easy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 28, 2010

It's been almost one regular week. So far so good. I'm just tired. For a person without a job, it's amazing how much there is to do. I'm almost dug out from our travels. Now I just need to dig out mentally. Oh well, maybe next week.

Gavi's speech is slipping back into old bad habits. Hopefully he can get a few more speech therapy sessions. I can't help but wonder if it has to do with Sean's travel or Gavi's laziness, maybe it's a little of both. When he's thinking about it he can speak, but it's still an effort.

I'm tired after this week. It's hard being the only parent on sight. I feel like it's been a long time. Actually it feels like we were away a long time more than Sean's been gone from us, it's like time stretches. There are things I can't yet wrap my mind around, but I know I have to.

Well, we're one more day closer.

Tonight we ate dinner at the karate studio again. It worked well, sandwiches and cut veggies. It's nice to get home and not have a late dinner. I feel better having eaten earlier, and the kids get to bed at a reasonable hour. We even planned a menu for next week so I wouldn't have to scramble each day or guess what the kids might eat.

We're also sticking to the bedtime routine. There are nights I want to say go to sleep, I'm not singing tonight, but it really dies help to have a routine. Keren is waking and sleeping easier, and her fears of something happening to Sean have lessened. I'm sure much of that is because she see's him on the computer pretty regularly.

Otherwise it is life as usual. It's amazing how normal abnormal situations can get. I remember being in Hawaii and realizing I was forgetting to look up, and I was missing the daily rainbows. I made it a point to search the sky regularly after that. Here it's turned cold and windy. Somehow it reminds me of the beginning of March, blowing like a lion. I don't mind the cold, but I hate the wind biting into my skin. Still, I was enjoying the strength of the wind yesterday, appreciating it's power, and, on some level, our powerlessness against it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winter comes to Hawaii... and normalcy

I have been neglectful of my writing. We have settled in. Life seems normal and regular. We even sometimes forget we are in Hawaii. Jesse takes all our time. I cannot wait to have another.

The AJC Hanukah party suffered from lack of planning. It was fine for adults: food, schmoozing, but there was nothing for the children. It was left as a pot luck with no organizer. We brought videos for Jesse and other children.

Tu B'Shevat brought us a seder planned by a congregant. It was lacking the foods I am used to: carob and dates. Rather, we ate pineapple, mango, and coconut. It was great! It was beautifully planned. 35 people attended post-Superbowl. The congregation is small, but devoted.

Purim will bring a hamantashen bake and an adult class on minhag by me! I'm very excited.

Barukh Dayan Emet- King Hussein

King Hussein of Jordan succumbed to cancer last night, not the hero's death he wanted, but he certainly died a hero. Flags fly at half-mast here in Hawaii, the other side of the world from Jordan. The entire world seems to be mourning this day.

I am watching the funeral. It is noon in Amman. Amazingly there has been a fog all morning, as if the Earth herself mourns the passing of one of the world's greatest.

I feel for Queen Noor; bidding her husband goodbye; clasping one of her daughters to her as the women remain behind to mourn privately. The CNN commentator wonders how she must feel, but I wonder about their sons. They must mourn in public, maintaining a strong and solid demeanor for their subjects. Perhaps King Abdullah wants only to go to his room, close the door, and cry.

Jordanians are running along the street with the coffin as if they do not want to say goodbye.

As King Hussein lay dying at the advent of Shabbat, I could not help but think of Josh Gluckstern-Reiss, a friend who was just beginning his own bone marrow transplant, even as the King's was failing.

I began my own interest in Jordan in nineth grade when I did a paper on Jordan. Over the years I came to respect and even love, as one loves a role model, King Hussein and Queen Noor. To lose a hero as one prays to gain back a friend rends one's soul. On Friday night I read Pslam 40 at AJC in solidarity for Josh (friends and relatives were sharing this with communities around the world). For three days I planned what I should say, but when standing before the congregation, I was struck by the emotion of the moment and remained silent, simply reading the words.

The funeral is truly amazing. Forty world leaders, including President Assad of Syria, PM Netanyahu, and Iraqi delegation, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Presidents Clinton, Bush, Ford, and Carter, the Sudanese President, UN Secretary General Kofi Amman, and many others. People who have never been in a room together now gether to say goodbye to a king, a colleague, and a friend.

Holidays in Hawaii

December 1998
Holiday Party

There's a flurry of holiday parties this month. We've declined all but two: the squadron holiday party and the party given by the Commodore Dohse and his wife.

The squadron party was a lot of fun, held far away at Scofield Barracks, another night of salad for us (living my life in New York has spoiled me), but good company. We sat at the Commodore's table with Commander Kreuger, the office Chief of Staff, and the Master Chief. Sean was curious as to how he warranted such a seat, but I was happy there. I can be myself with the Dohse's and the Kreuger's, and the Master Chief was delightful.

There was Christmas music, small Christmas trees on the tables, but that's to be expected. We won our centerpiece, the living Christmas tree, which brought laughter to all. It was a lot of fun and a nice easy-going dinner.

Squadron Seven is a wonderful group- close knit. Even as the only Jews, and both of us rabbis, we, and I especially, have felt welcome, not at all out of place, which is more than I can say for being with many of the chaplains here. It's amazing how I can feel more comfortable at a Christmas party than at dinner with the chaplains.

Speaking of other chaplains, Sean and I have been getting bad vibes from a chaplain in his office. B is an interesting man. He knows how to play the political game, but doesn't care who he steps on around the board. I can't help but wonder if in his interactions there's some prejudice. He's as right wing as I am left, but more so. He has no idea what to make of us, his image of his perfectly coiffed, stay-at-home wife does not jibe with what he sees in me. Also, our religious observances are seen by him as not being flexible, which means Sean's not a team player. In B's denomination just thinking about doing something forbidden is as bad a sin as actually doing it, so his attitude is why not do it. He's willing to do forbidden things if he feels it is good for his squadron. For us, there is no sin in thinking only in the doing. We also believe that our differences and how we treat them can make us a stronger group.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Returning to the present 2010

It's amazing to me how vivid these memories are as I type my journal. Going through them also helps deal with the day to day here. We're finally settling into the routine of missing Sean.

We had breakfast yesterday with him on the computer. It's strange that he's present and yet not. I'm not really sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Gavi had a hard day at school after. He said he felt like a six ton weight was pressing down on his stomach. When we came home he went to bed for a bit. We talked about Sean's absence and the physical effect missing someone can have. Gavi cried a bit, rested a bit, and then came to join us. However, later in the evening the feeling returned, and by midnight Gavi was sleeping in my room. Today was Jesse's day. The morning started off well, but when he came out of school, he just looked sad. He said he feels a lot of pressure in school, but when we examined what he has to do, he's doing so much better than last year in terms of work and projects. At the heart of the matter he is simply missing his Abba. Strangely Keren, who burst into tears at the slightest provocation prior to Sean's leaving hasn't had her day yet.

For me, as we settle in, every day has its ups and downs. I have not really recovered from our trip south. Gavi was ill, and we delayed our return, but that led to a return Thursday night with a Friday departure for Shabbat. The kids took the bus, leaving about 10 minutes late, and so were late to school. I wanted to iron the boys shirts, but dropped the iron while turning it on. It fell just right on the cord, mostly severing it; causing sparks from the exposed live wires. When I pulled the plug, the cord rebounded, hitting me just below my eye (Thank God not actually hitting my eye). The resultant black eye is wonderfully colorful. Each day brings a new rainbow of hues. By Sunday I was so fried I forgot to get Jesse to the bus for the bar mitzvah party he was attending. As soon as I realized we all bundled into the car and off we went, but got completely lost, spending over an hour in the car to find the place. Miriam & Michael invited us all in for me to relax. They could see how much I needed it. After the one hour Jesse got to be there for, I was much better for driving home. This week is better, but I need time to get a grip on things. For some I have time, for others- not so much. I am surprisingly busy with meetings and appointments for a person without a job.

A high point of my day yesterday was speaking with Rabbi Joe Brodie. I find his voice and tone soothing. He participated in our wedding and named Jesse, and is a special presence in our lives and our hearts.

It'll settle. There will be good days and bad. For now we're okay. As I fall asleep I think, we're one more day closer to Sean being home again.

I've a Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore

November 28, 1998
A motzi-Shabbat dinner party

I was so looking forward to a night out. I figured I'd get a bit of intellectual stimulation with the other chaplains and their wives. An interesting evening it was- meat lasagne, oh well, salad, and fruit salad is fine, even better than worrying. Even so, it was a difficult night.

The wives seem content to talk among themselves, never my forte, and I was a bit uncomfortable with the discussion at times. A democrat, nay bleeding heart liberal, a socialist even, in a sea of conservative republicans. For a moment I felt as if the conversation crossed into prejudice.  Furthermore, I am beginning to feel quite alone. The wives are not, in general, an educated group. I often have little or nothing to say to them, and the chaplains do not seem to know how to relate to me. I am neither a wife, being ordained myself, nor a chaplain. The result is my feeling ignored.  [In hindsight I believe the comments to stem more from ignorance than prejudice.  For all the opportunities the military offers, it can somehow manage to remain small town USA.  Some stay in this world, never gaining knowledge of the amazing differences among people.  Among some of these there can lack an acceptance of those differences stemming from an assumption that their way is the right way, and shock and surprise that anyone would think something different.  Of course most embrace the opportunities provided.  Chaplains especially must learn to understand and appreciate, but it sometimes takes longer for the wives who do not deploy.  Whereas rebbetzins are by and large educated, often with graduate degrees, many chaplains' wives are less educated than their husbands, and with much less worldly experience.]

I am realizing that I really am in the midbar. I am so alone and ache for a peer group. We've been here three months with no job in sight. I am interested in a few projects and yearn for the JTS library.

This past Shabbat was Vayetzei. It has got me thinking of angels. I am inspired by the ideas of God's messengers moving among us; by the knowledge that even as Jacob was alone God's messengers were with him. I look around and can see this is God's country. The promise is illuminated in the daily appearance of rainbows, and even as I feel ultimately alone, I look about and declare, "Hashem bamakom hazeh, v'anokhi lo yadati." "God was in this place, and I, I did not know it." I know we are doing divine work. I just wish I could be more active at it.

V'hinei sulam mutzav artza... a ladder was set on the ground, and its top reached the heavens, and behold the messangers of God were going up and down upon it. (Breishit 28:12)

Angels ascending and descending, moving between the earthly realm and the heavens, and naturally part of both. What a paradox are angels?! They fill the Heavenly Court, singing to and conversing with God Himself. Yet, our tradition often holds humans above them. I have always been fascinated by the concept of angels, but recently with the upsurge of public interest I find myself wondering over the differences in our angel theology.

On erev Thanksgiving we attended the interfaith prayer service, during which we had a moment of prayer. I wonder why Christians bow their heads. I sat, eyes closed, face upturned, thinking of God and experienced a true moment of prayer. I visioned before me a throne of saphire, shining in darkness. I have never doubted God, so fortunate to feel the Divine Presence always, but was over-whelmed by the warmth of the vision.

Thanksgiving 1998


Yesterday was the Thanksgiving Eve Interfaith Service. Sean and I both participated. Sean was asked to lead the singing of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands." Most of the chaplains were asked to do things a bit more spiritual. I read the presidential proclamation establishing the Thanksgiving holiday.

Actually, it was a nice service, but clear to me it was written by Protestants. Efforts were made to weed out Jesus references, but mistakes were also made, and there were three references. Hymns, with or without Jesus, always strike me as Protestant. The nicest part was a musical presentation by three members of the Protestant congregation, a prayer to Jesus in English and Hawaiian. When so many efforts are made to appeal to all the result is rather bland. The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is we can come together as an interfaith community. Why whitewash the differences?

Rather than interfaith, I'd like to see a service that is multi-faith, including presentations from each of the faith groups involved, from the heart of each one.

Thanksgiving Day

A day like all others, although my first day of home sickness. Thanksgiving should be a special day spent with people who have meaning in your life. Today was perfectly nice. I think this is the most difficult part of military life, the special people are separated from you. During the Hagim my focus was on the day and it's meaning. For Sukkot, on getting the sukkah done.  For Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret we had no minyan, and so the disappointment was as if we'd lost the holiday. But today it was the people, nice enough, but not yet special.

[One of the niceties of military life is the special people you do meet.  With the constant transitions, military families often open to others more quickly than most.  Lifelong friends are made in moments.  Shared memories are strong, both communally and individually.]

223rd Chaplain Corps Birthday Ball

[On October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy. November 10 the Marines were established within the Department of the Navy. Eighteen days later the Congress established regulations to govern the new Continental Navy. Included in these regulations, ship captains were directed to provide for religious services aboard their ships. This date is considered the birthday for the Navy Chaplain Corps. The first chaplain is believed to be Reverend Benjamin Balch, who reported to the frigate Boston on October 28, 1778. Because of his presence during active sea battles, he became known as "the Fightin' Parson." Reverend Balch's son William was commissioned as the first chaplain of the US Navy on October 30, 1799. Even though the Marines are now a separate branch of the military, Navy chaplains still serve the religious needs of the Marines. Rabbi David Goldberg was commissioned as the first Jewish chaplain during World War I. Chaplains have been awarded the Purple Heart, Distinguished Cross, and the Medal of Honor. The Chaplain's Medal for Heroism was created in honor of four chaplains who gave their lives in service. It is also called the Four Chaplains medal.]

The 223rd Chaplain Corps Birthday Ball

Well, that's what they call it, but it was more of a formal dinner party. The ball was at NCTAMS Chiefs' Club. NCTAMS is a communications base. There was baby sitting, so we brought Jesse. He hadn't napped during the day, and was very cranky when we arrived and woke him from his sleep on the ride. Baby sitting was at the chapel (Christian only here). We said no religious stories and no Burger King. There was food, milk, and juice in a cooler we brought.

We left the chapel and drove over to the club. What a difference from the Navy Birthday Ball. This certainly was not the Hilton. No place cards, the pool table was set up with cocktails, plastic cups for drinks, and the band played rather sporadically. Our food was totally screwed up. We were to have dinner salads, but the person in charge delegated to another who made the salad with real bacon bits leading to a quick scramble for new salads- lots and lots of iceberg lettuce. Actually, when they came the salads were nicely presented and filling. The only thing to drink was beer (we made a toast to Rabbi Lebeau). There was no juice, certainly no kosher wine (there's only lousy stuff on the island anyway). There was no photographer, but I had our camera, and we can get some pics from the Hawaii Navy News. On top of everything, I'm was shivering because I was seated directly under a ceiling fan.

Our speaker came down with the flu, so another filled in. A toast was made to the chaplains' wives. I wonder if the husband of the chaplain hosting is used to that. I'm sure he is, but it must chafe. Entertainment was a base choral group. The conductor said, "We wanted to sing some spirituals, and get up ready for Christmas!" Yeah for us. Boy oh boy do we have some educating to do.

Sean, as the youngest chaplain on active duty on the island was one of the cake cutters (using a borrowed sword since chaplains are non-combatants), and couldn't side-step taking a bite. He also gave the closing benediction, the first blessing of Birkat Hamazon in English and Hebrew plus two Harachamans for the US military and all present. He added a final refuah shleima to Admiral Prouer who was ill (our speaker). People were very impressed. The Hebrew does that.

What's interesting are the people who realize the issues with the food or entertainment who apologize profusely even though they had nothing to do with it. Then, of course, there are those for whom we are an inconvenience, like the chaplain who complained that Sean couldn't stand watch on Shabbat, as if standing watch on Christmas would be no big deal for him. Luckily they're not so common. [Actually the halakhot dealing with military service allow for great leeway with Shabbat and Yom Tov.  Military needs are seen as a case of pikuakh nefesh, and much is allowed as long as it is mission necessary.]

Even with the problems, it was a nice evening. Most of our colleagues are wonderful, and we've settled in nicely here.

When we went to pick up Jesse he refused to leave. Amazing since he cried so hard he threw up just two hours earlier. Thanks to Angela, the sitter, and the Admiral who loaned us his cell phone so we could check in. I also appreciated the New York Marine Colonel who was so happy to talk to fellow New Yorkers (what an accent- it fit him!), and a special thanks to Edguardo and Wanda Rivera for fixing our food problems and making us really feel at home.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dinner with the Wives

I was invited to the bi-monthly dinner with the chaplains' wives at a Thai restaurant. There were eight of us. I'm told that's normal, but it's a different eight each time. Not much for me to eat, but I made due. (Hawaiians like their chicken and their pork. It's surprisingly hard to find a vegetarian dish or a salad without meat.)

It was a very nice evening. The wives are all very nice, but I knew I was out of my league when it became clear I was the only one who had never plucked a chicken. There was not a city girl in the bunch. Then of course there was a discussion about Christmas and trees. I am definitely not in New York anymore, and the Seminary might as well be on another planet.

Still, I'm really glad I went.

God Speed John Glenn

October 29, 1998

The space shuttle launch- John Glenn's return to space.

T-1 minute

I only remember watching two space shuttle launches, the first and the Challenger.

I am watching this morning while I do my morning chores. I am sitting at the dining room table chopping veggies for a chilli-cholent for tonight and Shabbat. I can't help but develop an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as I remember the Challenger explosion. At 15 seconds I move to the couch for a closer look. Tears fill my eyes as the engines fire up. They roll down my cheeks at take off; "Barukh Hashem" leaves my lips as the countdown concludes. What a magnificent sight.

In this day when we shoot down our leaders preventing the creation of heroes, I think we have to say, "Thank you" to John Glenn and to all those who get no credit for their daily heroic acts.

God speed John Glenn.

223rd Navy Birthday Ball

Saturday, October 17, 1998

Tonight was the Navy Birthday Ball at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We arrived late (it began at 6:30, the same time Shabbat ended). It's like prom night at the Academy. Everyone dressed to the nines, women in leis.

The lei is much nicer than a corsage. Our dishes were glass and kashered, all wrapped in saran, waiting for us. Food was brought in. I believe it was Mon Cusine, microwaved, but nice, a fruit plate for dessert.

Our arrival was perfect. We missed the speeches, but arrived in time to sit down to dinner. We were placed by the door for an inconspicuous entrance, but that meant away from SUBPAC. After dinner, toasts to all. There was an odd one to our Commander-in-Chief (President Clinton), not as respectful as it should have been, but then again, we're far from Washington. This was followed by toasts to the Four Forces, followed by the cake cutting. It's traditionally done by the oldest and youngest on the force. We schmoozed with SUBPAC then had pictures taken and off to home.

All in all, a lovely night out. Next year I hope we can sit with SUBPAC and do a little more socializing and networking.

A Lucky Accident

October 25, 1998

Tonight was dinner with the Commodore. His wife, Deidre, used to work for a kosher firm in Norfolk, Virginia. We spent a lot of time on the phone talking about what we could or could not eat. Dinner was fabulous! Grilled tuna, pasta salad, homemade rolls with butter, and grilled pineapple. Commander Kreuger and his wife, Susan, were there. It was a great time. Over dessert Commordore Dohse and Commander Kreuger told wonderful stories about Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy. The stories reminded me of all the wonderful apocrypha I've heard about Rabbi Lieberman. We laughed for over an hour. The love and respect from which they spoke was clear and an inspiration. (I think we broke some boundaries. When Deedee got up to get dessert, Susan and Sean joined her in the kitchen while I sat at the table talking sports with the guys.)

Sean's assignment to SUBRON was an accident. The chapel spot was supposed to be kept open, but the detailer filled it with a priest when no rabbi was available. The SUBRON spot was a way to get a rabbi here to cover. Now it seems all eyes are upon us watching to see if we become a true part on the squadron with Sean's chapel duties, and watching how the chapel handles a rabbi in a job like subron. It's never been done before. Begun as an accident; continued as an experiment.

Settling in... Kashrut continues

I had my first tour of the USS Honolulu. Standing outside a sub is a freaky experience. The sub looks so big from the dock, but the deck is deceptively narrow. I barely wanted to move, but SHOW NO FEAR! Well, down an escape hatch. I think my legs a a bit short for those ladders.

Word was sent down- "There's a woman on deck." It was a great tour. The Executive Officer (XO), Commander Weigen acted as tour guide. Sub geography is fascinating, especially the environmental controls!

[During our years at Pearl Harbour I toured many a submarine.  It's always interesting to be the "women on deck".  Sub passageways are narrow; I am amply endowed.  I was always amused to watch sailors attempt to flatten themselves against the bulkhead.  They all looked terribly frightened, as if nothing could match the shame of brushing against the chaplain's wife.  I imagine it might be as bad with the CO's wife.  Any amply endowed woman, and those who aren't, has experienced the crush of a bus, a subway, or simply a crowd.  It is a fact of life, sometimes annoyance, and, in moments like these, amusement.]

Sean's second ritual committee meeting: Unfortunately no baby-sitter, so I missed a second one. It was a knock down, drag out fight, but Sean had to lay down the law. The kitchen will be kosher. Some congregants actually turned to the kashrut side. Ed Ellenson, head of the Men's Club, actually researched the issue. He was surprised to learn that Conservative Judaism does not give you an option on kashrut. I wish we'd been able to educate others. This has been such an emotional subject that most have closed their ears and minds to the issue.