Thursday, January 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home

That's it.  It's over.  Sean is home.  After weeks of limbo, of being unsure what would happen, in a matter of a few days Sean came home.  Our service to God and country, for now, has ended.

It's been a frustrating ride.  We were set to serve when we thought Sean was heading to Afghanistan.  We were prepared (and somehow frustrated and relieved at the same time) when he was pulled from his Seabee unit to be sent to Okinawa, Japan instead.  Unfortunately, the method by which the Navy planned to send him turned out to not be legal.  Now what to do?  In the meantime I had left my job at USCJ.  The Chaplain Corps, trying to do the right thing, sent Sean on whatever type of orders they could.  The result was a series of orders in Okinawa.  However, it seems there's only so long they can play the numbers game with different budgets within one area.  While the Jewish chapel needed a rabbi, that's not a full time job.  There are only so many billets that are available and can be merged with the needs of the Jewish program there.  Out of options, they sent Sean home.

Whatever the reasons, we're just happy he's home.  Keren has been planning a "rejoining party" since before Sean left.  Gavi planned the greatest ambush.  Most mornings Gavi "ambushes" Sean with a stuffed animal (called "The Inbound Monkey", although it's not always a monkey).  He planned an ambush with Jesse & Keren, organized it, directed the set up, and, when Sean walked through the door, gave the command for them all to pelt Sean with multiple "Inbound Monkeys".  A triumphant moment for all!

Hugs, kisses, gifts, lots to talk about, and bedtime.  (It was after 11 PM.)

It's wonderful to have Sean home.  It's even more fun to watch others' reactions as they see Sean unexpectedly....  Hugs, kisses, lots to talk about....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snow Shoveling or Making a House a Home

I've shoveled the driveway about 23 times this month.  There have been a couple of days when I shoveled twice.

I like shoveling.  It is easy and satisfying.  Sean and I have different ideas about shoveling.  We have a double driveway, but only one car.  He shovels the minimum, a strip barely wider than the car.  I like to shovel the entire driveway plus the sidewalk.   I like the way it looks.  I like the exercise, and I like the feeling of accomplishment.  Like painting a room, there is an immediate satisfaction when you look at the change you have wrought.

This morning I am painting.  Actually, my parents painted a bathroom while they were here.  I just have some touch up work to do.  I hung art- two collages my mother made and a print from my parents.  I framed them with white mats in white washed wood frames.  I removed a hideously ugly light fixture (leaving a moderately ugly one).  The bathroom feels finished now.  It's ours.  It still has the pink 1960's tile and marbled pink medicine chest.  But the feel is totally different.  A new curtain hangs at the window.  With little effort (even less since my parents did most of the work), the house begins to be transformed from the house we bought to our home.

Shoveling is the same.  The snow has been mostly light and fluffy.  If shoveled shortly after falling it is easy to push; easy to lift.  The house has a wonderful, homey feeling when the walk and driveway are shoveled.  It looks loved, welcoming, open.

It looks like mine.

More stream of consciousness

Jesse talks in his sleep.  It's fascinating.  He's quite unintelligible.  He often speaks in gibberish, but at sometimes at length.  Other times he uses words, but seemingly not in any specific order.  Sean too talks in his sleep, but never so clearly.  More clear is when Sean used to play racket-ball in his sleep.  I had to watch for his swinging of his racket.

I have become obsessed with a game on the Mac dashboard called Bubble Bazinga.  You cannot win the game.  The goal is to see how long you can stay afloat.  Often the pieces don't do what you think they should.  They get stuck in strange places, or slide through holes in which the seem not to fit.  Just when all is lost, a series of perfect pieces will show up and clear out a whole level.  The sound of bubbles popping is a satisfying, happy sound.  When they stick it is a dull clank.  As new rows appear, an ominous buzzer is heard that catches you in your gut.  When enough bubbles are popped you get fanfare and blinking lights.  If life had sound effects I wonder what they would be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Emotional Exhaustion

So the squirrels did not do my laundry.  I did my laundry, all eight loads.  I am eternally grateful to the inventor of the large capacity washer and dryer, without whom it may have been 14-16 loads.  The laundry is folded and sorted, and Jesse may have put some of his away.  For Gavi and Keren laundry has become too much.  I will do it tomorrow for them.  As each week passes they are more and more tired.  They are sleeping enough.  I can only assume they too feel the emotional exhaustion of missing Sean.  Only Jesse seems immune.  For him it seems to be enough to speak with Sean at length.  Jesse has always been verbal.  In Sean's physical absence Jesse has found comfort in the ease of Skype and iChat.  He checks in morning and evening, telling Sean every minute detail of his day, every thought from his mind, and every idea that passed through his amazing imagination.  Although since developing HSP Jesse has slept in my room, comforted by the fact that should he need me in the dark hours of the night I am only an arm's reach away (a good thing since only twice has he slept through the night with the HSP).

Gavi misses his daily ambush of his father.  By the end of the school day he is tired, not sleepy, but mentally.  He's had headaches and stomach aches since Sean left.  He has plans for wrestling and ambushes that Skype cannot replace.  It's been worse since my parents left.  He misses the extra hugs, the stability of additional adults in the household, and the male presence provided by my father.  Papa Bruce was very much in demand from the boys to play games and discuss deep thoughts.

Keren has only recently began to show signs of the emotional toll.  She is fragile, bursting into tears for no reason.  "Can you bring your lunch box to the kitchen?" results in tears, whining, and a collapse to the floor.  She needs her father in a way I cannot replace.

As for me, I am simply tired.  I wake in the morning in a different fog than normal.  I am not a morning person.  I often wake with a curse that it is morning so soon (even when Sean is home), but somehow things are different.  My body holds a heaviness that does not come from lack of sleep.  I hope this limbo of neither here nor there ends soon.  I feel like if I was only sure of a concrete end I could have something to work towards.

In the meantime, Keren is planning a "rejoining party".  She's been planning since before Sean left.  We have a guest list and a menu.  All we need is the guest of honor.

Stream of Consciousness

My home is currently steeped in the mysterious and mythological.  Gavi is reading/ re-reading The 39 Clues series, and Jesse & Keren are into Percy Jackson.  History, mystery and mythology entwines in both.  It seems appropriate that when I sat at the computer and started iTunes the song "Icarus Is Falling" by Steve Krause (a good friend who just put out his 2nd album) started up. (I have my fav mellow songs on a play list set to shuffle.)

Today I had to take Jesse for blood work for his HSP.  This disease has been quite the trip.  At Sick Kids residents knocked on our door to check out Jesse's rash (actually small hemorrhages on the skin).  When we went out Saturday night, our friend Patrick (a pathologist) excitedly asked to see the rash, and today our Pediatrician's med student was practically giddy at the idea of examining Jesse.  I find myself in the strange position of educating the next generation of doctors.  Jesse has a text book case, and countless times I have described the progression of symptoms watching med students and residents examine Jesse's rash with the same joy and wonder in their faces as Jesse when he first saw the circus.

[Shortly after Keren was born the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus came to Jacksonville, NC.  Jesse and I rose at dawn and drove to the site to watch the big top being erected.  We sat on the tailgate of our van drinking hot cocoa in the morning cold as the tent was slowly raised.  Afterward, we wandered through the paddocks checking out the horses, zebras, and elephants.  I have been to the circus many times, but only that day did I really get to experience the circus, not to mention a special morning with my son.  We returned later that week to watch the show.]

Driving up Wilson Heights Blvd there is an open field to your left.  (I think it's used for practice for city services.)  Currenly it's a beautiful smooth, unbroken expanse of snow.  Rising up in the middle is a bus station.  It serves no actual bus line, and sitting there it has a Narnian feel, and I expect to see a beaver waddle up to catch a bus or to speak to me.

Strangely the smooth snow is making me think of Hawaii.  No, not in that way.  It's amazing how easily we forget to look around us and enjoy where we are.  Even in Hawaii it is possible to miss the rainbows.  Winter is actually a beautiful season.  Snowflakes are amazing!  I've taken to wearing a wool coat instead of my ski jacket most days.  When the snowflakes fall on the wool they don't melt immediately.  Against the wool I can see the crystal structure of each individual snowflake, the winter equivalent to the wonder of a rainbow.  Barukh Atah Hashem... oseh ma'aseh b'reishit; blessed are You, God, who formed the wonders of creation.

We're still in limbo.  Sean has neither orders to stay in Japan, nor to go elsewhere, nor to come home.  It's a strange state, and I half-expect a phone call at any time from him saying I'm on a lay-over in Chicago, my flight lands in five hours.  When people ask what's happening or when Sean's coming home, my answer is "sometime between today and May."

It is thought that 80% of those with ADHD have a genetic predisposition.  Given that my children were doomed.  (Interestingly in the Percy Jackson book series, half-bloods, that is the children of mortals and Greek gods, often have ADHD.   It is a trait of artists and heroes, dreamers and visionaries).  For those of us on the border, stress is something that can push you over the edge.  I don't feel stressed, but my home clearly shows I am.  I keep beginning tasks only to move on to something else, and to something else, and to something else.  I have dozens of half-begun chores and ideas, but few completed.  It's making me a bit nutty, but also very hard to control.  The piles and lists grow.  Eventually it'll all be done, but for now my normal obsessive organization is suffering.  There are, however, peanut butter cookies and blueberry cake to eat.  On the plus side, a few jobs that had been put off indefinitely have been done.  The amazingly ugly light fixture over the medicine chess in the kids' bathroom is gone.  The hole and wires capped.  Many paint cracks in our walls are fixed (although with a house that's almost 50 years old there are more to fix).  After a year and a half in the house we've settled, and I've moved into making it our own.

I love the view from my kitchen window.  I am sitting at the computer (when I should be making my lunch) with the window in front of me.  The trees are dusted with snow.  Squirrels jump from branch to branch causing small avalanches.  Sometimes the come to the window as if to say, "Where's the leftover challah from this week?!"  The sky is white today above the trees, but bright.  A light breeze is blowing, just barely moving the branches.  Sometimes hawks visit from the nearby ravine.  There's a calmness outside that easily transfers to a calmness inside.

Now if only the squirrels would do my laundry...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Sean & I have been married for 17.5 years.  January 1 is our half year.  July 1 will be 18 years.  Sean and I met in August 1991.  I was dating someone else.  Sean stuck around, and by May 1992 we were engaged. Two years later a good friend said to us, "When I heard you were engaged I thought you were nuts.  But after watching you for the past two years it's clear it was meant to be."  When asked how long we dated I just shrug.  Somewhere along the path we just became one.

We've been such a close team that people have actually called us Jon & Shen.  yes, that's sad, but true.  Even throughout the deployment we function as a team.  We talk frequently, sometimes for hours on skype.  (What a difference from when my dad-in-law deployed pre-email!)  Still, we're clearly different in a lot of ways.  People have asked if we disagree on halakah or observance.  The answer is rarely, but we seem to come to our decisions in different ways, sometimes vastly different ways.  Sean is the mitnagid to my hasid.  I feel Judaism in my heart first and work it out in my head second.  Sean is the intellectual whose heart follows his head, a mixed marriage to be sure.  I've known my connection to God, how it fits in my life, the path I was following from childhood.  Sean's was not such a straight line.  My family all lived within a small radius (all in the Tri-State area), spending every holiday, and many weekends, together.  Sean moved to Virginia as a child, spending his formative years on a Navy base.  (It made Sean into an interesting mix of New Yorker and Southerner.)  Sean majored in psych ay SUNY Buffalo and Talmud at JTS.  I focused on the sociology of the Jewish community and Judaic studies at Brandeis and history at JTS.  Together we cover all the bases.

There's a great interaction in the movie Valentine's Day, (cheesy, sweet, chick flick)
Reed- "How'd you know your wife was the right one?"
Alphonso- "Easy, I married my best friend."
Reed- "I thought I was your best friend."
Alphonso- "You're my bro.  She's my best friend."

That's the key.  We've been best friends almost from the moment we met.  He's my b'shert.  The differences just make it interesting.

By the way- The Turkey trip- it wasn't not knowing what we'd do there that made me uncomfortable.  It was an overnight trip on a deck chair, not knowing where we'd stay, or what we'd eat that made me uncomfortable.  We went to Tzfat and bought a beautiful piece of art by Avram Ebgi that we both love, as much for the story as for the art.  Yes, I wanted a bed, a locked door at night, and to know I could find food that wouldn't make me sick.  Over the years we've learned to balance the security with the unknown.  Running water and indoor plumbing is greatly appreciated by all.

Moving Furniture

Years ago, when volunteering as a spouse mentor in Hawaii for the Navy, we would teach how to get through the deployment of a spouse.  So much of what we taught has been useful to me these past few months.  One thing, however, just doesn't work for Sean and me- change.

The general advice is to change as little as possible about yourself or your home.  It's hard enough on a returning service member to see how life has progressed without him/her without having your living room painted red (no I didn't do that), your house moved around, or to see your spouse with a completely different hair color.  Well, I've been known to move furniture on a whim and to come home with a completely different hair color with no prior warning.  Oddly, Sean rarely noticed the hair.  I think he noticed the furniture only because he'd have tripped otherwise.

Keren and I moved the furniture one afternoon while Sean napped before he left.  I've been trying to figure out what else to move, but no luck yet.  I did get three pieces of new furniture.  Sean ordered two of them, but never got to see them.  My parents painted one bathroom while they were here, and I added art on the wall- two collages my mother made years ago and a print they recently gave me.  I've also sent two other pieces to the framer, which I hope to pick up soon.  One piece is destined to hang over our staircase and will be quite stunning.  The other is for our bedroom.  After 17.5 years, Sean expects nothing less.

Maybe I'll dye my heir crimson when he comes home....  Well, maybe not.


It's 12:13 AM, and I am watching French Kiss on channel 333.  Why?  Because I am wide awake.  Stress will do that to me.  I had a delightful day (Thanks Bev!) browsing shops and discovering details about products in the Jewish tartan (  By 9:30-ish we were all in bed (a miracle), when suddenly I realized I had forgotten to check something.  I got back up.  Here it is, almost three hours later.  I got back into bed to sleep, but no luck.  Stress will do that.  It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.  I guess tonight's the night.  It seems unfair, but gam zeh ya'avor.

Good news- my ring arrived today.  It's lovely, Hadaya (  More good news- I lost some weight.

Ironic news- the ring is too big.  I'm wearing it on a necklace tomorrow.  I'll find out how to get it sized down.  I only measured my ring size 5-6 times.  Oh well.  Maybe sizes in North America & Israel are different- probably but I couldn't find any information on this.  Oh well, gam zeh ya'avor.

Still, I love the ring, and just seeing the small package in my mail made me smile.

Now, if only I could sleep.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


In every deployment there are good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks.  This has been one of those weeks.  You may ask, "which weeks, the good or the bad?"  I leave it to you to decide.

After almost two months of not sleeping through the night due to illness in the house (and 3 straight weeks with not a single night of unbroken sleep)  last week I found myself standing outside Jesse's "room" in the Sick Kids emerg at 12:30 AM with waves of emotion washing over me.  I stood there knowing I was simply overwhelmed, but still not being able to control the tears.

Since then the waves of emotion keep coming.  There's no good reason.  We're all healthy (or will be).  Life is really fine.  Still, the stories in the news, the Toronto police officer killed last week in the line of duty or the victims shot alongside Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the tears just flow.  There's no stopping it.

But life is generally good.  Shabbat afternoon Keren & I played in the snow.  We made maple slushies from the fresh snow and maple syrup.  Following Shabbat Keren, Gavi, and I shoveled the driveway. Keren did an amazing job.  Gavi did an interesting one.  We went skating.  We came home and talked with Sean until almost midnight.  We slept late on Sunday.

But just as gam zeh ya'avor is for the bad times, it's for the good as well.  A good friend has just been told he has an aggressive form of cancer.  We're praying for a miracle.  Even with the joy and the fun, I am numb.  The tears have stopped now.

There's a M.A.S.H. episode that uses the line "emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt."  BJ and Hawkeye write it on a toe tag the put on Frank.  It's a quote that gets used a lot in our home.  It's a wonderfully descriptive line, and fits my current state.

There is a cure though, and I'm employing it.  I hug my children more.  Hugs and cuddles, kisses, and games.  They have magical healing capabilities.

Gam zeh ya'avor, for better or for worse.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Road To Hell... aka I Think I'm Losing My Mnd

Today the kids had a PD afternoon.  That means that pick up is at 2:30 for all three instead of 3:30 and 4:05.  Yesterday I told the children today would be an early pick up.  We planned on heading straight to karate, getting hot cocoa at Second Cup, doing homework, and taking the early karate class for them all.  A wonderful plan, especially since I had an 8 PM meeting.

This morning I reminded them of the early pick up.  At about 10:30 AM I spoke to my friend Bev and mentioned that the kids had an early pick up.  Around noon I received a phone call from a colleague asking me to do something as the VP of our local Rabbinical Assembly region.  It needed to happen immediately and the president was stuck in Detroit (Ah snow).  I took care of it, and completely forgot the early pick up.  At 2:45, thinking I was so proactive in getting out the door early and knowing I needed to shovel the driveway again my mind suddenly clicked on.  I realized the children had actually been dismissed 15 minutes earlier.  I quickly called the school.  The kids were taken care of.

My question is- what happened to my brain between 11:45 AM and 2:45 PM?!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Special Evening With My Children

As usual I picked the kids up at school.  While waiting for Jesse to get out (40 minutes later than Gavi & Keren) a 1st grader seemingly disappeared from the playground.  While those of us left (including the mom) were sure the child was okay, the panic grew for us all.  He was found 30 minutes later having gone to a friend's home.

My children have that independent streak.  Each one managed to disappear at different times in singles and pairs.  I know the panic of a (albeit temporarily) missing child.  The memory of it makes you appreciate a child's presence.

Tonight I had planned on taking the kids for haircuts.  After school Jesse had an optometrist appointment.  Afterward Jesse & Gavi begged to be dropped off.  They're both very shaggy, but it's their hair, and it's not a fight I want to have.  That left Keren.  We headed to First Choice Haircutters after dropping the boys at home.  Keren was so excited.  She'd planned exactly what she wanted with her hair, and talked about it all the way there.  Once at the salon we flipped through magazines looking at styles.  She may be 8, but she knows exactly what her style is.  Then it was Keren's turn.  She told the hairdresser what she wanted, and the three of us talked about hair style, hair care, and her brothers' shagginess.  After we picked up Chinese take out and headed home.  All the way home Keren talked about her new haircut and the hair products we bought.

Over dinner Jesse shared everything he knew about the creation of the US nuclear navy (which is more than anyone really wants to know).  Gavi talked about submarine missions, and Keren shared her opinions.  It was a wonderful dinner, peaceful, sweet.

As the kids grow older I know we won't always have the opportunity to share a family dinner on a weeknight.  The calm dinners are already growing rare, but I certainly appreciate them when they come.

Happy 104th birthday Rabbi A.J. Heschel

Today would have been the 104th birthday of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a luminary of the Seminary. Rabbi Heschel was the closest the Conservative Movement ever got to a rebbe. He was not always appreciated by colleagues for his focus on spirituality over text study. For me, Rabbi Heschel has been an inspiration. I am the hasid to Sean's intellectual focus. My favourite quote from Rabbi Heschel, and a truly meaningful one in my life is "I did not ask for success. I asked for wonder, and You gave it to me." This speaks to the connection I have felt to God for as long as I can remember. The wonder of the world around me has always been proof of God's presence for me. When Stephen Hawking made his comments about gravity proving the non-existence of God a few months ago my reaction was immediately one of faith. The idea that due to gravity the big bang becomes inevitable seems to me to be straight from Breishit. I do not need to understand. I would rather wonder in awe at the workings of the universe.

I very vividly remember a conversation I had as I child. We had been learning about the big bang and the creation of the universe. I must have been in grade 5. The conversation took place by the bicycle racks to the side of Chatterton Elementary. I was arguing with Mark Kessler. In some ways the memory of this conversation is more vivid than discussions I had yesterday. Mark had taken the side of science as disproving God. We know how the world came into being, therefore it wasn't God. I wanted to know what came first. Who created the materials. For every explanation Mark had to give I said, "but what came before that?  How did that get there?" Why should science and knowledge preclude faith? Why cannot I understand science and believe?! "Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge."

A couple of other Rabbi Heschel quotes to celebrate the day:
"Racism is man's gravest threat to man- the maximum hatred for a minimum reason."
"...the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer.  Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling.  And yet our legs uttered songs.  Even without words our march was worship.  I felt my legs were praying."
"In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for the truth and have begun striving for ourselves."
"To be is to stand for."

and finally...

"Just to be is a blessing.  Just to live is holy."

Today I wish you blessing, kedushah, and most of all- wonder.

Happy birthday Rabbi Heschel.

Godbye Debbie Friedman, zichrona livracha

“All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, and the voice of the shofar, and the mountain smoking, and when the people saw it they fell back and stood at a distance.”  Even after all that the Israelites had witnessed in Egypt the connection to the Holy was so overwhelming that they said to Moshe “You speak to us, and we will obey, but do not let God speak to us lest we die.”

How often in life are needs put before us but we simply do not want to see?  Whether it is a need close to home, such as the kosher food bank, or to speak out against injustice elsewhere, be it the horrors in Sudan or the constant condemnation of Israel.  How many of us offer opinions over our dinner tables, but do nothing beyond our homes? Why do we wait for our politicians, rabbis, and community leaders to speak for us instead of speaking directly to the needs ourselves?

The Jewish community has a history of activism and speaking out against injustice.  Since the Hebrew midwives defied Pharaoh and delivered Jewish babies alive, Jews have stood up against that which is clearly wrong.  We have banded together as a global Jewish community to fight anti-Semitism, to bring our people out of darkness into light, and to fight social injustice and inequality all over the world.  Our activism and unified belief in justice crossed denominational lines to bring about change.  Unfortunately, recently there has been splintering of this Jewish unity.  The question of who is a Jew is raised all too frequently.  Rather than working towards inclusion, social action, and the building of Jewish identity, we challenge individual’s membership in the Jewish people.  Midrash states that we all stood together at Sinai, not only those physically present, but those not yet born.  The message of this Midrash is clear- we are one community.  We all stood at Sinai together.  Rambam wrote that whoever separated himself from the community, even though he commits no transgressions, but simply disengages from the community of Israel loses his portion in the World to Come.  Why is this?  Rambam states that it is because when one separates from the community s/he does not perform mitzvot with the community.  That person no longer feels communal pain, doesn’t fast when tragedy strikes.  S/He merely lives a solitary life in an individual way.

This week the Jewish community lost a beautiful voice of unity.  Debbie Friedman, zichrona livracha, whose music has become so normative across the Jewish community that many do not know it was she who wrote it, had this to say about unity, “It was kol isha (the voice of women) for col isha (every woman) that inspired me to write inclusive music.  It is beneficial not only for women, but for men and children as well.  Singing helps us learn how to be vocal…. The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.”

We must sing together so that we can continue to “become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions,” and to continue to stand together as one community.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Barukh Dayan Emet

The world of Jewish music lost a great today.  I met Debbie Friedman at the University of Judaism in early 1991.  She came to speak to the rabbinical students.  While there she "taught" us her Oseh Shalom properly.  She was a delightful person.  Her talent shone through in everything she did.  Our Jewish light is a little dimmer today.

Zichrona livracha.

Snow Musings

Snow makes me smile.  I know that many of you think I am nuts on this point, but when I open my eyes to see snow outside I smile.  I believe that if the weather must be cold then it should snow and be pretty.  I want drifts, mounds, piles of snow.

Thursday night it was snowing as I went to bed.  Friday morning I had to drive the kids to school.  In good driving conditions the drive takes a half hour.  I may have mentioned before that I am NOT a morning person.  Most mornings a dear and wonderful friend drives the children for us.  This is a godsend.  So I was unhappy about having to be truly conscious to drive.

Okay, back to the snow.  The alarm went off fifteen minutes early.  I pulled the covers over my head.  Then I remembered the snow.  No snooze this morning, sad.  Okay, driving children to school.  Remember I mentioned snow.  I drag my sorry self from bed; grab socks, a jacket, and boots, and step outside.  (Yes, I am still wearing my pajamas.)  It's still dark.  I wonder why I'm awake.  But as I look out at the peaceful, snow-covered world I smile.  The snow is still falling.  The streets are quiet.  It's an amazing time to be outside.

On an aside- my father always liked to leave the car in the driveway when it snowed so he wouldn't have to shovel.  I like my car in the garage.  It's clean.  It's warm-ish.  I kinda like shoveling.  It's a debate as to which method is better. As I begin shoveling a neighbor from across the street comes out to clean her car.  In the time it took her to clear her car to passable I had shoveled my entire double driveway.  My feelings about the garage are reinforced.

Snow fell throughout Shabbat eve.  Saturday morning was even better than Friday.  THe alarm goes off two hours later (smile).  It was still snowing (smile).  Keren and I went to shul.  On the way home Keren climbed every snowdrift.  It took us twice as look to get home, but we had lots of fun.  Keren followed up the walk with forty minutes in the yard playing in the snow.  Wonderful!

Skating motzi Shabbat.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quiet Time

My last house guest left today.  After six weeks, my parents left at 4:40 AM yesterday.  Tonight, our feline house guest of two weeks left.

It was a pleasure having them all.  My parents arrived and immediately found a project in my house.  It's a family tradition.  My grandfather did all sorts of things for my parents, and now they're paying it forward.

Having my parents here also allowed me to attend the USCJ International Youth Commission shabbaton on Orlando, a weekend away with a lot of friends at a great hotel in Florida.  Unfortunately I didn't leave the hotel grounds, missing Harry Potter's Wizarding World, but a needed time away nonetheless.

Upon my return I discovered I had a terrible case of bronchitis, bordering on pneumonia.  Four days in bed (again, thanks Mom & Dad), and a run of antibiotics, and I'm so much better, hopefully fully well, but a follow-up with the doctor will confirm.

It was quite a visit.  There's a reason that kids move out when they grow up.  Still, for the kids it added a level of stability.  It allowed me time away to refresh, and time in bed to recover.

Today I had a wonderful lunch with good friends Judy & Dena Libman.  Thanks!  People have often asked what's really helpful.  Of course with every person the needs are different, but for me it's been the supportive contact and the adult time I get with friends.  Really, just knowing you're there if I need you is the biggest help of all.

For now, I'm looking forward to a quiet home tomorrow to get my house back in order, and a little work done.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In 1993, trying to create an environment in which all US citizens could serve their country, President Clinton enacted DADT.  It was a means around the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice).  Finally, DADT has been repealed.  Finally, it has been recognized that preventing homosexuals from openly serving in the US Military is simply a rehashing of the same prejudices, the same arguments that were used to prevent blacks and women from serving, or were used against Jews, Hispanics, and other groups.  How is it we continue to rehash the same ridiculous prejudices?  Homosexuals have served with honor and distinction, albeit not openly, for as long as the US Military has been in existence.  Homosexuality does not effect your ability to be loyal, honorable, or patriotic.  The homophobic fears of a few has too long hijacked the rights of homosexuals to serve as citizens.

I do not care about the sexual preference of the sailor who serves as my husband's bodyguard.  Thank you for protecting him so he too can support and defend the constitution.  You're always welcome in my home.

Order and discipline were the same arguments that kept blacks as cooks or women out of regular service.  How real can the arguments be if we use the same arguments that have been proven wrong time and time again.

As for sharing quarters- really?  You've already been doing so.  Oh, and by the way, you're not that hot.

Furthermore, religion may not be used as an argument for or against service.  The oath of office is "to protect and defend the constitution."  The oath does not mention the Bible, nor does it mention some groups interpretation of the Bible.

As a woman rabbi I understand how it feels to be judged based on criteria that in no way effect my ability to do my job.  I have fulfilled all the requirements to be a "Rabbi, Teacher, & Preacher in (the community of) Israel" as Sean has.  I do not care about the sexual preference of the Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine protecting my rights as an American.  I merely want to say,

Thank you for your service.

Gam Zeh Ya'avor, Take Two

Okay, I lied, sort of.  Sean outed me.  When we began in the Navy 16 years ago Sean promised that if he ever deployed for real time he'd buy me a ring that said "Gam zeh ya'avor."  Fast forward sixteen years, almost exactly.  Sean was sworn in on October 31.  He deployed on October 13.  When we first found out about the pending deployment, Sean and I talked about the ring.  Almost ten months later, as we were preparing for Sean's departure, lo and behold, Sean had forgotten to get the ring.  Among all the changes, all the craziness, all the unknowns, the ring fell by the wayside.  Not surprising really.  This was the inspiration for the BOHICA inscription on the inside.  Who knew it was prophetic.

Anyway, fed up with the changes, the craziness, and the unknowns that have continued throughout this deployment, I finally ordered the ring.  I ordered it to wear on my right forefinger.  That's this finger on which the groom places the ring in the Jewish ceremony.  There's a myth that a vein runs from that finger straight to the heart.  Nice.  It's also the finger most easily seen by witnesses.  I think it's an appropriate finger for this new ring.

Our wedding song was "You're My Home" by Billy Joel.  It signifies the idea that as long as we have each other we are home.  No matter what, gam zeh ya'avor.  Throughout the moves (eight homes, plus interim residences, in six cities), financial ups and downs (I've lost count of how many times the Navy has screwed up our pay, and that's just this deployment), and family circus antics, as long as we have each other we know, gam zeh ya'avor.