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.