Monday, December 24, 2012

Eating Out With Children

On Sunday we went to dinner with our children.  We decided on vegetarian Indian.  This has never been a good idea.  In the best of circumstances, dining out with my children is an experience worth missing.  It's not the dining part.  They have nice manners, when they choose to use them. The children are pleasant company, and can make interesting conversation.  No, it is the ordering.  At a familiar restaurant, they can spend half an hour or more just to decide they will have the same entrees they always have.  At a new restaurant, they spend that half hour debating what to order with a million questions. So, place us at a restaurant with a type of food they generally do not eat, and OH MY GOD!

One further fly in the ointment, toss in my in-laws, especially my dad-in-law.  He's amazing, but his world is very ordered and controlled.  You can imagine what it's like to throw three children into that nicely ordered world.  We can watch the tension creep as the kids cannot decide what to order.  It creeps ever higher when they don't like the foods they've chosen, not to mention his amazement at the amount of food they eat.

An interesting experience for all observing.

The most interesting part of the evening, after all was said and done, and all leftovers packed up to come home, each kid said they'd go back to that restaurant again.  Seriously?!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Someone Needs to Explain This!

I need someone to tell me why this happens.  Why do seemingly normal people suddenly choose to put antlers and red noses on their cars.  It's bad enough that people torture their pets at this time of year.  Many, many dogs, and some cats (cat people don't like to see that look of derision on their cats, and so usually avoid the holiday costumes), are subject to the humiliation of Hanukah kippot, candle hats or dreidel costumes, Santa hats, ugly Christmas sweaters, antlers, and elf costumes. At least the animals can look upon their people with scorn.  "If I could only work the can opener and the door knob I'd be outta here!" clearly written on their faces.  In extreme cases they can bark, whine, scratch, and/or bite to protect themselves from the most demeaning of holiday wear.

Cars, on the other hand, are inanimate objects.  They are not cute.  They are meant to convey others from place to place.  The y can be practical or majestic.  They can be cool or odd.  However, no matter what kind, it is embarrassing to all inside to be riding in a car that has been ridiculously decorated.  At least those who place Hanukah menorot atop their cars, although looking stupid, have an excuse that the commandment for Hanukah is to publicize the miracle.  What excuse can be made for dressing you car as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  None!  There is no excuse!  On top of that, it's Rudolph in his early days.  The antlers can hardly be called that.  They are small sticks completely disproportionate to the car. 

I love Christmas.  I love the music and the lights.  I love that I can enjoy all the joy without having to untangle light strings.  I do enough of that for Sukkot.  But seriously folks, this is unacceptable.  Do not demean yourselves with small sticks and red noses on you cars.  And when the holidays are over, do not put lips, eyelashes, horns, or testicles, especially blue ones on your car or truck.  Yes, I have seen all these things.  Stop the madness!

Wow That's Weird

What's weird you may ask.  You know when you drive out of the city to visit friends or family, or just for a scenic drive, you see all sorts of stores lining the roads hoping to entice shoppers with the interesting wares they put out for us to see?  Of course you do.  In Muskoka you can see gazebos, outdoor furniture, and the occasional moose.  We window shop each summer.  On our most recent drive (not to Muskoka), we passed a number of antique stores, not at all unusual.  At these stores you can see a similar array of interesting goods.  There are car parts, banners, furniture, windows, all sorts of detritus.  Today I saw a giant chicken.  Yes, a giant chicken sculpture at a store by the side of the road.  It looked like a fat Foghorn Leghorn.  "Huh, that's interesting," I said to myself, and gave it no more thought.  Later on the drive we passed a second antique store in a beautiful old house with a wrap-around porch.  Leaning against the porch steps was a second giant chicken.  This one a metal sculpture of the Kellogg rooster a full story high. "Wow, that's weird," I said aloud, and I was right.  You don't often see even one giant chicken in a day, let alone two.

Sean's only question, "Do you think he knows the Long Island Duck?"

Kitty Blog 8, by Gandalf the Grey

I saw Nora's post.  Here's my side of the story.

Nora completely exaggerates.  I knew she was there all the time.  She didn't scare me one bit.  I just jumped to humour her.  That's what a gentleman would do; play along.  Yeah, that's it.  I was humouring her. 

I shouldn't do it.  She's quite full of herself really.  She always acts so aloof, but I know she's really a kitten a heart, and wants to play.  That's why I do it.  After all, even though she's a pain she is my big sister.

It's My Turn #10, by Nora T. Cat

Laundry is the greatest thing ever!  My people tend to do laundry in piles.  It's wonderful for so many reasons.

1. Laundry fresh out of the dryer is warm.  I can climb into the basket and snuggle down surrounding myself in a cloud of heat.  If I'm lucky I can manage a ride from the laundry room to the bedroom without having to move.

2. Laundry is soft.  There's little better than a pile of towels or sheets to sleep upon.  It has just the right amount of give for me to get comfortable.

3. Large laundry piles make wonderful vantage points.  From the top of a really full laundry basket I can observe all that happens in the bedroom and the hall beyond.

4. SOCKS! I love socks, especially when they have been paired for easy carrying around the house.  

And my latest discovery...

5. Laundry provides camouflage and cover.  Last night Jen had piles of laundry on the bed being folded and sorted.  The spaces between the piles were just the right space for me to hide while observing the entrance into the bedroom.  I bided my time.  Eventually Gandalf came in to eat.  That was my opportunity.  I watched and waited.  I marked the kill zone, and then, when Gandalf had eaten his fill, turned towards the door, and entered my sights, I pounced.  HA!  This was the best ambush ever!  I flew over Gandalf landing just past and in front of him.  He jumped about 200 feet in the air.  It was great. 

I can't wait until Jen does laundry again!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vayechi- Balancing the Jewish and the Secular

“And Joseph fell upon his father’s face and wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. And forty days were filled for him [Israel] because this filled the days of embalming, and Egypt wept for him seventy days. And when the days of weeping were past, Joseph said to the house of Pharaoh saying, “Please, if I have found favour in your eyes, please speak into the ears of Pharaoh saying, “May father made me swear saying, ‘Behold, I die; in my grave that I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you will bury me.’ Now permit me to go up and bury me father, and I will return.” And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father as you swore.” And Joseph went up to bury his father, and all the servants of Pharaoh went up with him, and the elders of his [Pharaoh’s] house and all the elders of the land of Egypt.” (Breishit 50:1-7)
It is Jewish custom that we bury our dead as soon as possible, normally the next day. In our world of families living across countries and around the world, oftentimes funerals will need to be postponed as mourners travel. Nevertheless, even in these cases, halakhah dictates that we wait no longer than three days. This is not only a modern issue. Rachel dies in Bethlehem en route to Efrat giving birth to Benjamin. She is buried on way, there in Bethlehem, rather than in Machpelah.
Jacob dies in Egypt. Instead of being buried in Egypt, or even immediately taken back to Canaan for burial, Joseph orders the physicians of Egypt to embalm his father. The embalmers proceed with the drying process, which took forty days. Rashi and other commentators explain this was necessary to fulfill Joseph’s vow to his father, to bring him back to Hebron, to the cave of Machpelah, to be buried with his parents and grandparents. For seventy days all of Egypt wept for Jacob. The full mummification process is seventy days. What is interesting is that only after the full embalming is complete does Joseph go to Pharaoh’s court to request permission to leave Egypt. Shouldn’t Joseph have requested permission prior to the embalming process to know if it would be necessary? Furthermore, the body would have been ready for travel after the first forty days. Why the additional thirty? There is more to this process than just preparation for travel.
All Egypt mourns Jacob’s death. The elders accompany Joseph to Hebron to bury his father. Rashi points out that this is due to respect for Joseph. Joseph occupies a position only second to Pharaoh. Our tradition teaches that he maintained his Jewish practice, but as Vizier he would also have to follow Egyptian public custom. The Egyptians would have been horrified to have Joseph bury his father without the proper Egyptian respect due to Jacob by his son. To bury Jacob only according to Jewish practice would have lowered Joseph in the eyes of Egypt and challenged the practices of Pharaoh himself.
As Jews, we have lived in countries throughout the world. In every land we have balanced our practice with those of our country of residence. Even our law, which states, “Dina d’malchuta dina; the law of he land is the law,” recognizes this need. Only after Joseph had shown respect for the practices of Pharaoh and Egypt could he go to Pharaoh and expect mutual respect for his own practice.
And so remembering where we live while emphasizing our Jewish tradition, I hope we will all enjoy shared time and Chinese food away for our offices on December 25, and may 2013 bring peace and mutual respect to our world.

Vayyigash- Don't Worry, God is With You

 “And they went up out from Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father. And they spoke to him saying, "Joseph still lives, and thus he is ruler over all the land of Egypt," and his [Jacob’s] heart stopped because he did not believe them. And they told him all the words Joseph told them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, and the spirit of Jacob their father revived. And Israel said, "It is enough; Joseph my son still lives; I will go see him before I die.”” Breishit 45:25-28
When his sons return to him, Jacob is an old man. He is weary, having spent many years mourning Joseph. Fully enveloped in his emotions, Jacob has put aside his identity as Yisrael, one who wrestles, the head of the family and the father of our people, and has returned only to his previous persona of Yaakov, one who follows. He is going through the actions of life, but he is not really living. Upon hearing that Joseph lives, his heart stops, but he is revived as Israel. "It is enough.” says Israel. He is not concerned about his position in the family; he cares not for the wealth and glory of Joseph. He cares only that his son is alive.
However, now that Jacob is emotionally healed of his grief over Joseph he is no longer the frightened follower. He automatically becomes the strong and confident wrestler who is Israel.
Israel sets out, with his entire household, for Egypt. On the road Israel stops in Beersheva, offering sacrifices at the altar Isaac had built. God speaks to him in "night visions." In these dreams God calls out "Jacob, Jacob..." In his dreams, Israel reverts to his personal self. He is the insecure Jacob, the Jacob who ran from his brother and uncle, the Jacob who is sometimes afraid, the Jacob who allows his emotions to get the better of him. God calls, "Jacob, Jacob..." "Hineini; I am here." answers Jacob/Israel. God tells Jacob/Israel not to fear what is to come. There is a plan, and God will be there. It hearkens back to Jacob's earlier dream. After his dreams as a young man, Jacob made his covenant with God. Jacob promised to always follow as long as God will protect Jacob. Here, on the eve of entering Egypt, God reminds Jacob that no matter whether he is the strong leader of our people or the vulnerable Jacob, God is with him, as He will be with Jacob's descendants.

Mikketz- Shabbat Hanukah

Vaya’an Yosef et Par’o leimor biladai Ehlohim ya’aneh…
And Joseph answered Pharaoh, “it is not in me; God will answer…”
(Breishit 31:16)

Mikketz is a perfect parasha for Shabbat Hanukah. Joseph rises from the depth of oppression, imprisoned unfairly to practically rule Egypt. His dreams finally come true as his brothers bow before him. However, even knowing the future is not a guarantee of success. I am sure that with his grandiose dreams and dreams of grandeur Joseph never envisioned the lows to which he would sink before his dreams came true. Dream prophecy is always a bit fuzzy. It is never one hundred percent. Not all Joseph’s brothers bow at once. His mother is dead, and his father does not bow before him.
It’s not the dream that makes the future come true. It is the faith. In the humbling of Joseph, he realizes that it’s not he who is important. It is God’s plan and his faith in God that counts in the unfolding of the future. In parashat Vayeshev, Joseph tells the butler and the baker, “Halo l’Ehlohim pitronim.” “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Even before Pharaoh Joseph maintains his humility and faith. “Biladai Ehlohim ya’aneh et shalom Pharaoh.” “It is not in me; God will answer for the peace of Pharaoh.”
The story of the Maccabees is not so different. Mattisyahu does not cry out, “Whoever is against the Greeks join me.” No, his rallying cry is “Whoever is for God, follow me!” The Maccabee battle cry was not a merely a yell, to frighten with noise and fierceness. It was meant to strike fear into their enemies with the power of God “Mi chamocha ba’eilim A-donai!” “Who is like YOU among the mighty Lord!” The Maccabees original struggle is not about power. It is about faith. It is about being willing to place our lives in the hands of God.
Today, outside the Knesset building is a replica of the ancient menorah. It stands as a reminder to all those who enter the seat of Israeli government why we are here on earth. It is a reminder to be, even when all odds appear against us, or hagoyim, a light among the nations. Our own hanukiyot should shine from our windows as this light, to remind us, and to bring light to others.
Hanukah is a time of rededication. As the Maccabees rededicated the Temple, so to should we make efforts to rededicate our lives, our hearts and minds to our community, our Land, and our God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's My Turn #9, by Nora T. Cat

Okay, Gandalf is getting really annoying.  I get it.  You've been put on a diet.  You don't like it, and you're not happy.  Tough!  Seriously, tough.  Get over it.  The whining has got to stop.  All day he's nosing around for food.  Really, lentil soup?  It's just sad when a cat demeans himself by eating something like lentil soup.

By the way, you're not actually starving.

At night it's even worse.  Everyone is trying to sleep, and there's Gandalf.  Meowing and whining, and knocking his food bowl off the dresser.  WE"RE SLEEPING!  ALL OF US!  Just go crawl around the kitchen.  I'm sure there are some crumbs you've overlooked.

So sad.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where's Gavi?

This past summer Ramah filmed holiday video e-cards to send out throughout the year.  The Rosh Hashanah card featured Keren's edah, singing and wishing everyone a good new year.   Keren can be seen singing and participating with a smile.

This morning I received my Hanukah card.  This video features Gavi's edah.  Are there smiling children?  Yes.  Is Gavi in the video?  Yes.  Is Gavi participating and smiling?  No.  Gavi can be seen twice.  The first time he is off to the side speaking with the teacher.  I am sure he is trying to convince Gavi to say something on camera.  Hahaha.  What a useless endeavor!  The second time Gavi can be seen wandering through the background.  Had he realized he was on camera, I am sure he would have wandered the other way.  Even at the end, when the kids form a hanukiyah on the ground with their bodies, Gavi is AWOL. 

Just one more way Gavi is forever deserving the camp award created in his name, the "Where's Gavi" award.

Gotta love em!

Adding the Imahot, Why I Don't

I've just finished davening.  (That's praying for the Yiddish-ly impaired.)  Throughout the week I use a number of different siddurim for my t'fillot.  At home I use the new Sacks siddur, Birnbaum, or the Sim Shalom.  At the office I use Va'Ani T'filati, the siddur published by the Masorti Movement in Israel.  I like using Va'Ani T'filati.  It's all in Hebrew, and so it's thin and light.  It took some getting use to though.  In all the t'fillot, wherever the word avoteinu, our fathers, or any of its derivatives appears, it is followed by imoteinu, or the appropriate counterpart.  It's hard to read over words.  How do you know to skip a word if you haven't read it.  If you've read it, haven't you added it to your t'fillot?

Why is this a big deal?  In the grand scheme of things it probably isn't.  But in my small world it's very important.  You see, I do not add the Imahot (the matriarchs) into my t'fillot.  Those making assumptions about me as a woman rabbi should check out my description of me.  It says "I'm not what you think."  For those free thinkers without preconceived notions, I should explain.  Many people assume that because I am a woman rabbi I am automatically on the left of the Movement.  I am not.  Many believe I will automatically add the Imahot, the Matriarchs, into my t'fillot because, after all, if I really understood how disenfranchised women have been before me, and fought to enable me to become a rabbi, I would want to do something about it.

I think that's way too simple.  I don't usually use the word feminist due to the baggage with which it has been encumbered over the decades, but my reason is a feminist one.  I examine Judaism historically and sociologically.  I believe that women have always been the strong leaders of the people Israel, from the time Sarah challenges Avraham with the words, "God will judge between me and you!" (Breishit 16:5)  If you didn't know the answer, God chooses Sarah.  In studying Jewish history, I have discovered women who were rebbes and women who were rabbis.  (In my mind, rebbes have a special connection to God beyond that of us mere mortals.)  True, it was hard to rise  beyond traditional societal roles to fulfill these positions, but that had more to do with society than with Judaism.  There is no halakhic reason a woman cannot be a rabbi.

But the t'fillot, some will ask, aren't they exclusionary?  I say no.  Hebrew is a gendered language.  As anyone who studies languages with gender knows, a plural word that is masculine does not necessarily refer only to men.  Avoteinu can be translated as our fathers, but it can also be translated, with no acrobatics, as our ancestors.  To me, the addition of the Imahot is a statement that our matriarchs are not included in the intention of the prayer.  That would mean that the significance of women in our history was excluded for centuries until modern feminists decided to add them.  I do not accept that.  I understand that some people feel pushed out.  But I have always read t'fillot to include me, and I would venture to say that those who feel left out of Jewish life and Jewish text are more effected by culture than the actual t'fillot or halakhah. 

But the Amidah, some will argue, it contains the names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Yes, that prayer speaks to specific relationships each had with God.  It mentions only those three, all men.  T'fillot were generally written by men, and they looked to the historical figures with whom they related.  I understand those who want to add Imahot into the start of the Amidah.  However, I am not so unenlightened as to think that I can only relate to a prayer that mentions women.  I can appreciate the relationships.  For me, adding Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah is choosing due to their marital status instead of their special relationships or leadership qualities.  Why not Rivka, Miriam, Devorah, and Hulda?  There is also a point at which brachot were set.  There is a beauty to the fact that Jews everywhere, reciting a traditional liturgy, can all pray together because we recite the same prayers.  Just because others seek to exclude me, does not mean I allow myself to be excluded.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Catching Up

I was posting my divrei Torah, but it seemed that they get the fewest hits.  So I stopped worrying about them.  Turns out that a few hits means people still want to be able to access them.  So I've caught up.

Happy Vayeshev.

Vayeshev- Jacob's Legacy

Eileh toldot Yaakov Yosef ben shva-esrei shanah haya roeh et echav batzon vhu na’ar et b’nei Bilhah v’et b’nei Zilpah n’shei aviv vayavei Yosef et dibatam ra’ah el avihem.
These are the generations of Jacob; Joseph, 17 years old, was a shepherd with his brothers, still a lad, with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s women, and Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father.
Eileh toldot Yaakov, these are the generations of Jacob. We expect the names of his sons and daughter. We expect to hear of the twelve tribes. But these are the generations of Jacob. Jacob grows; he becomes Israel, and from Israel come the twelve tribes, but from Jacob comes another world. 
This is a fascinating way to begin the parasha. Eileh toldot Yaakov, these are the generations of Jacob. One would assume the verses to follow would tell us of lineage, but rather they, and the subsequent parasha, speak of the dissatisfaction and jealousy within the family. The story of Jacob’s generations is so famous Andrew Lloyd Weber felt it would make a great show. It has. It is a favourite of young and old. It is this story, the story of jealousy, the story of anger, but eventually the story of forgiveness, love, and redemption that is the descendant of Jacob.
Joseph, Jacob’s favourite is put to work at an early age. Seventeen seems an appropriate time to be shepherding, but the text tells us he was still a lad. He had not yet come into his own as a young man. In Jacob’s family there is a difference between the sons of Rachel and Leah and the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Of them, Joseph brings tales.
Questions abound. Why is Joseph with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah? Where are his other brothers? Why is there this distinction? What evil tales could Joseph be spreading? Whatever the answer, we know that Joseph’s actions were enough to turn all his brothers against him; to anger them enough to consider killing him, and to eventually sell him into slavery. While most siblings probably fantasize about this at some point, Joseph’s actions must have been extreme to force their hand in this manner.
All of this is the inheritance of Jacob. Joseph was 17 years old. Joseph was his father’s favourite. At his father’s knee he learned favouritism. He learned tale-bearing, and he learned deception. He fills his father’s place.  Jacob’s parents had favourites. Jacob lived by deception. Only when he comes to Egypt as Israel have both he and Joseph moved beyond their past to redemption. As Tim rice wrote for Andrew Lloyd Weber, once in Egypt there are “bright colours shining, wonderful and new.”  They have moved beyond the generations of Jacob to the generations of Israel.

Vayishlach- Facing Our Fears & Embracing the Future (or the politically incorrect title- Jacob Mans Up)

This week’s dvar is taken from a piece I wrote while still at JTS. It was relevant then, and, with the seemingly daily need to pull down our leaders and heroes through gossip and details of their personal lives, I think it is relevant today.  Sean says it's one of my best ever.
There has been talk in recent years about the dysfunction of families in the Tanakh, specifically those families to whom we look as our ancestors. Before dysfunction became a catchword, we were taught that what is special about our ancestors is that they were not perfect. Even with their faults, they were righteous people. I believe this to be true. It is not the existence of these faults that make our ancestors good or bad, but how they lived with them.
Families of today are not so different from the families about whom we read in the Genesis. Problems existed. Today we see the same dilemmas on talk shows or in gossip columns. Spouses deceive one another; there is abuse; sisters love the same man, and sibling rivalry can lead to the tragic point of murder. This could easily be the line-up for any talk show during sweeps week. But this is our history, given to us in order to teach how we should live.
At first glance we might wonder what God wants us to learn from these stories of pain. The Tanakh is not a tabloid. Like talk-show audiences, we are given a glimpse into the private and difficult live of people we call our ancestors. On the other hand, we also have the opportunity to see how they handled their problems and conflicts in their lives- without the audience.
Vayishlach is a perfect example of this. We know Jacob and Esau were fighting even in the womb. It is clear to us that they were each the favourite of one parent, putting them further into conflict. The rivalry increased until Jacob was finally forced to flee for his life. Now, it is time for Jacob to return home. He cannot do this without confronting both his brother and the actions of his past. What will happen? It is obvious through Jacob’s fear that the animosity between him and Esau is not completely forgotten. Perhaps it should not be. But what of Esau? How does he feel after having so many years to dwell upon their relationship?
Whatever Jacob’s fears, the time has come. Jacob does not resort to appearing on the View or being interviewed by Larry King. He does not cry out to an audience asking someone else to solve his problems. He confronts himself, and only then, after he has come to terms with his past, does he meet his brother again.
Moreover, they do not come together, eyes blazing with anger, in front of the entire world. Jacob goes alone, before his entourage. Esau runs to meet him, alone. Together, yet alone, they reconcile. The past is behind them. They embrace the future.
Their story ends, “Vayigva Yitzhak vayamot vayei’a’sef el amav zakein usba yamim vayik’b’ru oto Eisav v’Ya’akov banav.” “And Isaac expired and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and Esau and Jacob, his sons, buried him together.” (Breishit 35:29)

Vayetze- Relationships

V’einei Leah rakot v’Rachel heita yafat toar vifat mar’eh. Va’yeh’ahav Ya’akov et Rachel….
And Leah’s eyes were weak, and Rachel was fair of form and lovely to look at. And Jacob loved Rachel…. (Breishit 29:17-18)
Jacob has left his home having secured his birthright through trickery of his father and brother.  On his way he encounters God.  Recognizing that he was blind to God’s presence in his effort to flee, this encounter sets him on a path of change. But change does not happen overnight. 
Jacob reaches Lavan’s home.  He sees Rachel, and he is smitten.  Jacob’s love is proclaimed throughout the ages.  He works fourteen years for her hand, yet his love is superficial.  He is besotted with her looks.  Of their love the Torah tells us only that “Leah’s eyes were weak, and Rachel was fair of form and lovely to look at. And Jacob loved Rachel.”  Compare this to Isaac’s love for Rebecca.  “And Isaac brought her [Rebecca] into his mother Sarah’s tent, and her took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” (Breishit 24:67) 
Isaac’s love for Rebecca is built upon the life they create together.  As they grow together their love becomes deep and strong.  Together they build a partnership, which serves and supports them throughout their lives.  Theirs is the loving partnership described in Breishit, the ezer k’negdo.
Jacob’s love lacks this depth.  He loves Rachel with a lasting love, one that can withstand the many years he works, but it lacks the support and warmth of his parents.  When difficulties arise Jacob and Rachel are k’neged, antagonists, lacking the ezer, the help they should have for each other.
We are all too often focused on the surface.  We forget that relationships must not just be long, a thing that can be accomplished via Facebook or Twitter, knowing everything, but being involved in nothing.  Our focus becomes the next big thing instead of the solid, enduring reality.  In our world of quick and easy, we need to remember to focus our efforts to the deep and meaningful beyond the tweet. We may be infatuated by the surface, but once past the first impression, we should work together to create the deep relationships that allow us to build entwined lives.

Toldot- Positive Role Models

Vayetar Yitzhak lA-donai l’nokhach ishto ki akara hi vayei’ater lo A-donai vatahar Rivka ishto
And Isaac entreated A-donai on behalf of his wife because she was barren, and A-donai allowed himself to be entreated, and Rivka, his wife, conceived. (Breishit 25:21)
Each of our matriarchs has been described as barren. Each eventually conceives. In the ancient world, not so different from our own, the state of being without children was viewed as a problem. Women, often treated as property, needed children, especially male children to ensure their future. A son ensured there would be someone to care for you in your dotage. Within the greater world, barrenness was seen as a problem originating with the woman. However Torah and commentary show a view beyond this “traditional” idea. 
Avraham questions God about his lack of children. He does not look only to fault Sarah.  At the same time though, Avraham fails to see their barrenness. He sees only his barrenness. Sarah, seeking to solve the problem, gives her handmaid, Hagar, to Avraham. Hagar conceives, solving the surface problem, but causing the barrenness between Sarah and Avraham to fester.
When Rachel, the love of Jacob’s life, comes to him to plead for children, his response is defensive. Jacob yells back “Is this my fault?” (Paraphrase mine)  He does not blame Rachel, but neither does he share the pain.
Isaac, unique among our patriarchs, feels the emotion of his wife. “She [had become] his wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after [the loss of] his mother” (Breishit 24:67). Isaac understands loss. He openly feels emotions, and understands the comfort of a shared burden. 
Torah does not tell us that Rivka asked Isaac to pray to God. In fact, when questioning, Rivka is perfectly comfortable seeking her own answers. She is as much a prophet as Isaac. Nonetheless, Isaac understands that barrenness is not one person’s problem or one person’s pain. He seeks counsel in regard to their shared situation. Rivka is barren as she is the only one able to be pregnant, but her barrenness effects them both. Isaac’s openness to this shared state is indicative of their mutual love and respect, and the equality of their relationship. There are too few positive role models for modern marriage in our Torah. Isaac’s image of shared love, emotion, and burden is one we should seek to emulate.

Chaye Sarah- What We Do In Life Matters

Vayeihyu chaye Sarah mei’ah shanah v’esrim shanah v’sheva shanim shnei chaye Sarah
And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.  (Breishit 23:1)
Parashat Chaye Sarah seems not to be about Sarah’s life, but rather about Sarah’s death and the aftermath. Beyond this pasuk the parasha does not mention Sarah’s life. The parasha deals with Avraham’s actions and reactions following her death. Avraham must bury Sarah. He mourns her, and out of this seems to come concern for their legacy.  Avraham secures a future for Isaac, which consumes the majority of the parasha. Once this is done Avraham remarries. He fathers six more children, and guarantees the inheritance of each of them and Isaac by providing for them, and sending them off to form their own futures.
Nevertheless, the parasha bears Sarah’s name. The question could be asked, “Is it Sarah’s death that is the impetus for these actions, or was it Sarah’s life?” 
“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years…” “And the life of Sarah was… twenty years…” “And the life of Sarah was… seven years…” While the breaking down of numbers is a common literary device, everything in the Torah has a purpose. Why one hundred and twenty and seven? Why not 127? 
In each of our lives there are stages during which we live a different life. We are children. We are young adults. We are spouses. We are parents. Each piece of our lives is different. During these periods we act differently; we think differently. In the end it is not the total of years that matter, but the lives lived during those years.

Vayeira- Even God Shares

Va’A-donai amar ha’m’chaseh ani mei’avraham asher ani oseh?
And A-doni said, “Should I hide from Avraham that which I do?”  (Breishit 18:17)

This is an interesting verse.  To whom is God speaking?  Commentary assumes that “said” here means “thought”.  God would be speaking to no one.  I, however, like the image of God working out His thoughts by speaking to Himself.  In parashat Breishit things come into being by God’s speech.  The act of speaking aloud by God is in itself an act of creation.  Here also, God speaks and it becomes reality.
“Should I hide from Avraham that which I do?”  Perhaps the verse should say, “Why should I share with Avraham that which I am about to do?”  Yes, Avraham has a special relationship with God.  All the same, God is God, and needs no approval for decisions and actions.  Nevertheless, God chooses to share the decision to destroy S’dom and Amorah with Avraham, setting up one of the most famous dialogues in history.  Why would God do this?  Furthermore, when Avraham questions, “but what about 50 righteous, or 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10” God des not simply say, “This is my decision,” or even “There are no righteous there.”  God works through the debate with Avraham.  God takes Avraham through the exercise of looking for the good even when God knows there is none to be found.
Traditional commentary speaks of this as one of the ten tests of Avraham.  Instead of tests, think of ten lessons of Avraham.  Tests mark our progress.  They assess that which we already know.  After a test we are secure and proud or disappointed.  Lessons help us to progress.  They help us grow and mature to become better people.  Even when we make mistakes in lessons, we should not feel disenchanted or disillusioned, because our mistakes are progress instead of errors.
At the end of the dialogue there is no conclusion.  Avraham has asked his last question.  God says simply, “I will not destroy it [the cities] for the sake of ten.”  Then God stops speaking, and continues on His way, and Avraham returns to his own place.  Tests are graded.  Answers are right or they are wrong.  God is not an examiner.  God is a teacher leaving His student to ponder the lessons and make up his own mind. 

Another Great Company- All Hail Lego

First read this-  Lego found and gifted a discontinued set to a child who'd been saving for it.  Even better than the set, although perhaps not in the child's eyes, was the letter praising his willpower and patience in saving his money; as well as his love of and passion for Lego.  I hope that James does grow up to work for Lego some day, and that when he applies for the job he takes that special letter with him.

Years ago Sean and I began collecting Lego.  I figured you can never have too many Lego pieces.  I bought on sale.  I bought at yard sales.  I bought and bought.  When my children were old enough to play with Lego there was a short time when I thought I was wrong.  You can have too many Lego piece.  Wall to wall Lego on your floor is painful to the feet.

In our current home we have a huge crawlspace that has become a children play space.  On one side of the room there is Play Mobil (also good).  On the other side of the room there is Lego world.  Legos have created a city of skyscrapers in Gavi's room.  They have been cars and houses.  They have been castles, space ships, and zoos.  They are home to animals, dinosaurs, and people.  They have taught us patience, balance, and color coordination.  They fuel the imagination and build coordination.  Put Sean or me in a room with Legos and we can be busy for hours.

I was mistaken.  You can never have too many Lego pieces.

Kitty Blog 7, by Gandalf the Grey

I hate rain.  Sunday I ventured out into my big backyard only to be pelted with the water from the sky.  I ran back to the house, but my people were not paying attention, and I had to sit on the doorstep waiting for them to notice.  Finally Jen noticed the wet, and let me in.  Once I dried off and warmed up I was ready to run again.  Those darn people would not let me back out.  They kept telling me it was raining.  Do they think I'm daft?  I know it's raining.  Really!  That's why you need to wait at the door to let me back in when the rain begins to penetrate my fur.  That cane take five to ten minutes.  In the meantime, I run between the raindrops.  I am stealth. It was to no avail.  I was stuck.  Then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday they go to their outside places, and here I am stuck in the house.

Now Nora is starting to eat my food.  What's up with that?!  It's my food.  She knows that.  She doesn't even like it.  When we shared food she'd eat around my food, and only eat hers, even though they were mixed.  Why does she torture me in this manner?!

Sleep now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why I Hate Commuting

First, it is important to say that I really like my job.  I get to work for two organizations supporting the Masorti/Conservative Movement in Israel.  It is something about which I am passionate, and I get to help make a difference.  That said, I loved the time when I did not work.  I enjoyed being a stay-at-home parent and homemaker.  I felt like my house was in order, and I was more involved at my kids' schools.  I miss that.

What I do not like about working is commuting.  I would be a terrible work-from-home employee.  It's okay for a one-off, but on a regular basis I would see the dishes that needed to be put away or the laudry that needing washing.  It's a good thing that I work in an office where my major distractions are other projects on which I could be working. 

That said, why does commuting have to be so awful.  It's not about the distance or time.  I have commutes that took over an hour, but were fine.  I would take public transit.  On the train/bus I would read the paper or nap.  I would people-watch.

My current commute is a 7-10 minute drive from my house.  I am lucky that way.  There is little time that needs to be taken from the rest of life to get to the office.  On the other hand, when I do take public transit the commute more than doubles in length.  Some of thi is due to the fact that I have to take two busses to replace my 10 minute drive.  But what drives me crazy are days like today when the commute took me an hour.  Yes, my 10 minute drive became an hour on the bus. 

Still gimpy from foot surgey, I am walking slower.  As slow as I am, it could not have added much to my two block walk. unfortunately, I did miss a bus.  The next came pretty quickly.  There was no seat (to be expected), and the start/stop jerkiness of the drive did little to help my foot.  I arrived at Finch Avenue to change busses.  After much too long a wait, a bus arrived.  It was so full the crowd that had gathered could not hope to to get on.  A second bus arrived.  The same issue.  Finally, a third bus approached the bus stop.  It was that bus I boarded, thankfully getting a seat.  Of course the bus stopped behind two others at my stop, adding three bus lengths to my walk.  Yes, I know that sounds whiney, but after a walk to the bus stop, standing on the first bus, and waiting for the bus to arrive, I was sore and unhappy.

I am thankfully sitting at my desk with my foot slightly elvated, hoping the throbbing will stop.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's My Turn #8, By Nora T. Cat

It has been a busy few days.  I have transitioned from nurse to general caretaker.  Jen is much better, but definitely overdoing it.  I have taken it upon myself to intercede, forcing her to take breaks.  I made sure she spent Shabbat resting.

Shabbat was wonderful.  There were no ridiculous vegetarian or dairy meals.  It was meat all the way.  There was chicken wonton soup for dinner.  I enjoyed a nice warm bowl.  Soup is a delightful human food.  I understand Jen's love of it.  Shabbat lunch had more soup and roast chicken.  Gandalf, even on his diet doesn't seen to be interested.  He runs in, but then eats little.  Wonderful; more for me!

Today Gandalf kept going in and out.  Why can he not remember it is freezing outside?  Out, in, out, in.  Really!  Then all he wants to do is curl up with me to warm up.  I am so not interested in being his heating pad.

On the plus side, when he's outside Jen gives me treats.  Gandalf can't have any due to his diet.  I've also had to go without.  That is not fair!  In return, I let Jen know when Gandalf is waiting at the door to come back in.  He looks so cold, his fur all fluffed up to preserve warmth.  I almost feel sorry for him.

Tonight we are relaxing.  The family is watching a movie.  I am relaxing with my special little, pink sock.

Happy night.

November 29 & The Power Of Names

About twenty years ago Sean & I spent the school year living is Israel.  We lived at 28A Rehov Kaf-Tet B'November.  In English that's 28A 29th of November Street.  If you live there now, please write.  I'd love to know if the orange leather couch and the black leather chair are still there.  They weren't beautiful, but they were the most comfortable furniture I've ever had.

It was difficult to explain our address to people in the US.  I grew up on Long Island, the home of Levittown.  Streets in developments were named by the developers.  They often bore names of the developers' families.  Other names were common as well.  There were the bird sections (Robin, Bluejay, Sparrow), the tree sections (Oak, Birch, Maple), and the president section (Lincoln, Washington, Garfield).  Names repeated in town after town, but (beyond the presidents) the names had little meaning.  In New York City streets were numbered.  Other names were left from colonial times- biblical names or name places from the homeland.  There are some historical names (as with the presidents), but somehow there doesn't seem to be great significance in most cases.

In Canada, as in the US, streets often bear colonial names.  Newer names come from the British monarchy or Canadian history.  I live off Bathurst Street.  Henry Bathurst, the third earl Bathurst, organized immigration to Canada after the War of 1812.  How many people know that?  As with the US, the historical significance is minimal and ignored.

Israel is different.  We lived on Kaf-Tet B'November.  Nearby was Rehov Jabotinsky, Rambam, Lamed-Hey (35), Eli Cohen, and Rachel Imeinu.  History is significant.  Everyone in every generation knew the significance of Kaf-Tet B'November.  On November 29, 1967, the UN voted in the partition part to create two states in the British controlled territory.  The day after independence was officially declared on 5 Iyar (aka May 14, 1948), the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon invaded the new Jewish state.  The state of Palestine was never declared.  It's land was divided among Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. 

History also predates the state, even as a colony.  Zeev Jabotinsky was a Zionist orator pre-state.  Rambam was a medieval philosopher and Jewish scholar.  Lamed-Hey is 35 in Hebrew (the letters lamed=30 and hey=5).  It stands for the convoy of 35 Haganah men who were trying to resupply the blockaded Gush Etzion kibbutizim in January of 1948.  Eli Cohen was an Israeli spy who infiltrated Syria in the early 60's.  Rachel Imeinu is our mother Rachel, our matriarch.  

The street names, as with cities and other places in Israel, ring out with history from the earliest days of Avraham and Sarah right up until today.  It is a history that is remembered on every drive, in every address written.  

It is not of little significance that 65 years later, Abu Mazen chose to request a vote for observer status on November 29.  It is a situation that could have been avoided had the Arab nations allowed the partition plan to take effect creating two states.  What is they, as Israel, had instead declared a state, acknowledged Israel, and worked toward peace?  We have no way to know what that history would have been, only that it would have been different.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's My Turn #7, by Nora T. Cat

It's my turn.  Jennifer seems healed.  She is wearing shoes and running around the city.  I have finished my nursing duties.  It's my turn.  Two weeks of nursing is exhausting, and I am due for some serious scratching.  Yes, there have been treats.  Today there was leftover turkey.  Yum.  But really, appreciation should be shown through real attention!  I'm putting myself out there for a scratch.

Ah... that's they way.  Yes.  I love having my ears scratched.  I can never get enough!  Ahhhhh.

Sleep now.

The Joy of Shoes

I am not a shoe person.  I do not buy lots of shoes.  Weather permitting, I do not like to wear shoes.  However, after 2 weeks of not being able to put on a shoe, I was thrilled to put my left foot back into a shoe.

My chosen shoes- Ugg style boots.  They are comfortable and warm, like slippers I can wear outside.  They cushion the scab from the incision, and protect my foot.  I had forgotten the joy of comfortable shoes.  I have never understood wearing shoes that contort the foot into unreasonable shapes, nor the desire to have different shoes for every day of the year.  However, good shoes cannot be beat.  They are worth the price you must pay, and save your feet from the elements and children who don't watch where they are walking.

For those who are interested, the stitches came out today.  There is soreness.  It still hurts to walk up and down steps or to e on my feet for too long.  When I asked the doctor about kick boxing he laughed at me.  I'm supposed to give the healing 4 more weeks.

In the meantime...

I'm enjoying my shoes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Of Blogging, Followers, & Comments

Blogging is a strange experience.  Am I writing for me?  Am I writing for you?  Am I just writing?

I have followers.  Not many, but some.  But when I look at the stats clearly more than my followers read my blog.  Why does one person follow and another read but not follow?  Why do people read this blog, and what do they want to hear?  My readers are all around the world, from Indonesia to Brazil, from Canada to Egypt.  How did they find me?  Why did they click?  What makes this a piece you want to read?

And then there are the comments.  Few and far between, but there.  It's a sometimes intimate conversation with some people I know and others I have never met.  Isn't that odd?  Can I have an intimate conversation with someone I've never met?

No answers, just questions.

Good night.  Pleasant dreams to all, and peace.

It's My Turn #6, by Nora T. Cat

Tomorrow Jen's stitches come out.  I can't wait.  It's been a lot of work caring for her.  I'm exhausted.  I'm looking forward to the time off.  Plus I'm tired of getting after Gandalf.  He simply does not understand the true nature of nursing.  It's an honorable profession for any cat, but he has so much to learn.

Added into my responsibilities is Gandalf's diet.  I don't know what the cat is eating, but I'd swear he's getting larger.  I think he's got a stash hidden somewhere.  I'm searching, but I haven't found it yet.  In the meantime, I'm marking his food so he knows it's mine.  I don't want it.  My food is so much better, but maybe he'll think twice before he takes that extra bite.  I've tried to tell Jen and Sean, but I'm not sure they're listening.  If he's not careful he'll explode like that girl in Willy Wonka who blue up like a giant blueberry.  Not a pretty sight.

He should use me as a role model.  I am thin, svelte, beautiful.  I am graceful and agile.  I am everything any cat could want to be.  Yes, they all want to be me.  You know it's true.

Good night.

Kitty Blog 6, by Gandalf the Grey

I am worried.  I have been on this ridiculous diet for about a month, and there's been no change.  I heard Jen & Sean talking about giving me even less food.  How will I survive?  They may not think I've lost weight, but I know.  I'm wasting away.  Don't they understand that I'm just big boned.  Really!  It's true!  I will never be skinny.  It's who I am.  Next thing they'll be talking about that stomach stapling thing.  I'll never survive.

Maybe I can sneak some food when Jen goes back to work.  It's time already.  She's not the only one whose style is cramped by this surgery.  She's always here.  I can never get away with anything?  I can't wait until she's back at work, and I can go back to my normal schedule.  It's been exhausting.

Maybe that's the reason I'm not losing weight.  It's the stress.  I must be retaining water.  Yeah, that's it. When we go back to a normal schedule all will be well.  Yeah.  That's it.

Rabbinic Voyeurism

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Voyeurism is the practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors.  What could be more intimate than mourning a loved one, and yet, I am frequently invited to be a bystander, a fly on the wall, watching.  At times I direct, but rarely do I participate. 

Today I presided at a funeral.  Evelyn Sher was not a young woman.  She lived a long, full life.  I did not know her.  

As a rabbi I get to participate in many, many life cycle events.  Births, deaths, weddings, special birthdays and anniversaries, and even more.  Through these special, emotional events I get to know people.  From some of these people I have years to learn, but for others, like Mrs. Sher, their lives are done.  I get to know them only posthumously.  On Friday I met Evelyn's children.  Today I met her daughter-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  From them I learned that Evelyn was a strong woman.  She loved music.  She was kind, and thankful for everything in her life.  She was ahead of her years.  And she was much more.

Not only did I learn from the words they spoke, but I learned from what I saw.  I saw a tight-knit family.  I saw a great-grandchild slide closer to his cousin, Evelyn's grandson.  I saw Evelyn's grandson place his arm around his younger cousin passing on love and comfort.  I saw the lessons of family, so important to Evelyn, passed on to her descendants.  The love and connection was clear in their touch and their looks.  It is a lesson that is not spoken of, but learned in every moment.

As a rabbi I am honored and humbled to stand on the sidelines and watch these families.  I learn from them; I am awed by them.  I said today, that when I bless my own daughter every Friday night I think of our matriarchs, of Sara and Rebekah, or of Rachel and of Leah, but over time I also think of the amazing strong women I meet in these moments.  The women who raised their families and taught them the lessons of our people throughout history.

Tonight I think of Evelyn, and I am happy to have been able to know her even that little bit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kids Say the Strangest Things

So tonight we went out after Shabbat to a Camp Ramah event.

As an aside, if you want your child(ren) to truly absorb your hashkafah in things, find a camp that promotes your ideals.  Have them live this day and night for a month, and you won't believe the impact.
Preaching aside, we left shortly after Shabbat, and so missed dinner.  With Shabbat ending so early, seudah shlishit is more of a snack than a meal.  We generally eat Saturday night.  There was food (this was a Jewish event after all), but it was nosherei- carrots, oranges, hummus, and smores.  (What's camp without smores?)  So, we returned home with some of us hungry.

Since only some of us were hungry, I expect a lot of smores were consumed.  (Well that and the fact that Gavi's shirt was covered in marshmallow, as was Keren's face.)

Sean and I ate a relatively healthy snack since it was so late.  Jesse, however, opened a drawer in the kitchen, and pulled out a pot.  When I asked him what he was doing he replied, "Hungry; must bask in ability to cook."

Kids say the strangest things.

Kitty Blog 5- by Gandalf the Grey

What is up with the snow?  I go out.  My paws get cold.  I come in.  I warm up.  I go out.  My paws get cold, and there is no one at the door to let me in!  I need my exercise.  In just 10-12 short months I hope to be able to jump to the top of the fence like Nora can.  I need to exercise to do that.  Of course I won't let the people know.  Then they'd keep in inside or insist on human supervision, but still.  How will I ever reach that goal if I do not have full yard access?

This snow is cramping my style.  I need to be able to come in frequently, but the people refuse to sit by the door.  How hard is it really?  Bring a book.  Sit at the dining room table.  I'll knock.  Today I had to climb to the kitchen window.  It's not hard to get up too, but that ledge is much too narrow.  Turning around is a nightmare.  I don't know how Nora and those squirrels do it.  Today I executed a feat of acrobatics as I leapt mid-turn to the deck railing.  It was beautiful.  Unfortunately the people (Sean & Jesse) were so enthralled they missed the point... OPEN THE DOOR; IT'S COLD OUT HERE!)

Jen seems better.  I have reclaimed by sleeping position on her feet, and she doesn't flinch.  Nora still insists following her everywhere (even getting upset when Jen went to bathe.  I understood her desire for just a little privacy).  Each day she improves.  It's not a lack of vigilance to allow her space.

In the meantime, Jen's renewed mobility means she's feeding me.  Yum, and thanks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's My Turn, by Nora T. Cat

Typing with paws is easy, but someone needs to tell me where the darn power button on the computer is located.  I can do nothing if she leaves the computer closed and off.  Luckily it's moments before Shabbat, and they're busy.  I know the laptop will be shut soon.

Anyway, now that it's on, I can speak my mind.  Thankfully Jen had the sense to avoid a repeat of Monday.  She left for some meeting, but returned after only a few hours.  Thursday was the same.  Of course I'm not sure preparing full Thanksgiving and Shabbat dinners was a great choice, but oh, that turkey is so juicy and tender that I can forgive her.  Jen's chicken soup is quite refreshing as well.

As nurse cat I had to make sure she didn't overdo it.  Jen was made to sit most of the time.  I was there to watch her.  She had the sense to keep her foot elevated.  Turkey, squash, pumpkin, brussel sprouts, stuffing, cauliflower, zucchini, chicken soup and kneidel.  I don't know why they bother with all those vegetables.  The stuffing is good mixed with chicken broth, but squash?  Why would anyone eat squash?  Of course Gandalf had to try it, but in the end he agreed with me.

I ended my Thanksgiving with much for which I am thankful.  Jen cooks.  She also feeds me from the table.  I got treats while Gandalf was outside (the treat source has dried up a bit since Gandalf's diet), and a wonderful new pink and yellow sock filled with catnip.  It's mine, all mine.  I love it.  I will rub it, and lick it, and call it Little Pink Sock.  I love it so!  I have hidden it in my kitty tower where Gandalf cannot jump, but I don't have to worry.  It's mine, all mine!

Shabbat shalom.  Time for soup & chicken.  Yum.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kitty Blog 4- by Gandalf the Grey Cat

Today is tag-team nursing.  Jen overdid yesterday setting herself back a day, and so today she's back in bed.  I took the night shift, not leaving the bed until Sean took pity on me, and gave me my morning pittance of food.  When I began my shift, I knew Jen wasn't going to move, so I didn't have to live on her, and took up the position at the foot of the bed.  Unfortunately I did lie on top of Nora, who wasn't too happy with me, and hissed and jumped up.  Wow she's touchy.  A little thing like landing on her, and she gets all huffy.

It was an uneventful night.  Jen was so tired she didn't even turn the 3-4 times she normally does, waking in almost the exact same position as when she fell asleep.  She also fell asleep about 1 1/2 hours before the light goes out, which is especially rare.

At 6:37 AM Sean finally fed me.  Really, I can't understand what took so long.  He'd been up almost 30 minutes.  I don't know how I am to survive this diet.  He left with the kids this morning, and didn't return to feed me until 1:04 PM.  I hope we're not returning to the days when Jen couldn't feed me.  I'll never survive.  I've learned to pace myself, taking a few bites here and there to ensure the food lasts the hours of the day.  There's nothing sadder than an empty food bowl.

Today we are using zones to guard Jen.  I've got the main floor.  Jen made three trips down.  I told her not to load the dishwasher, but I think she thought I was asking for more food.  I heard Nora yell at her when she returned to the bed.  Ha, serves her right.

Time for a snack.  It's been 14 minutes.  Then maybe I'll spell Nora in the bedroom for a bit.  There's a great sunbeam coming in the window.

The Things I Do (or) Do You Know Where My Mother-figure Is?

A household is a balance of responsibilities to ensure that things get done.  When one person cannot or is not fulfilling his/her role, others must step up to complete the jobs lest problems ensue.

Sometimes that person, who cannot play his/her part is the mother-figure.  I refer to this person as the "mother-figure" because it is a role and not a gender designation.  It is a role that may be played by many or rotated amongst family or roommates.  The mother-figure traditionally manages the house, and keeps it running smoothly.

I am the mother-figure in our home.  It has it's ups and downs.  Both children and grandmothers, with Sean in the room, have been known to yell to me in another part of the house questions about food prep.  Sean is an excellent cook, and can certainly answer those questions, and provide help and direction where needed.  On the flip side, I can find things even when I'm not at home.  My most spectacular find was to locate an object in our home in Hawaii after Sean had moved us, while I was still in New York.  Yes, I knew where it was even in a house in which I had not entered since Sean began the move.

For eight days now, this mother-figure has been out of commission.  I have wonderfully capable kids and a fully capable husband.  When I have traveled, even for a week or two at a time, the house runs.  However, the presence of the mother-figure, no matter how incapacitated, seems to negate the need for others to fill the role.

Here are the things I do:

1. Laundry- I am in charge of laundry. I do not do all of it, but I am the organizer.  I direct others.  I ensure it has been picked from the floor and placed in the hampers.  Although rarely leaving my room this past week, I am still clearly in charge of the laundry.  We have six hampers in the house.  One Jesse has filled with old stuffed animals.  Three of the other five are in the laundry room at this time.  Clearly it is also my job to empty full hampers and return them to their proper locations.  The other two- still in their spots.  Gavi's and Keren's hampers are fuller than they have ever been.  Did I mention I do laundry three to four times weekly.  Ideally every day.

Jesse has run out of pants.  Luckily, wearing dirty pants is not like wearing dirty underwear.  Even after this, did Jesse think to put in a load?  Ha!  That's so funny.  No, he only did so when I said, "Jesse, before you play ping pong with Gavi, you may want to put in a load f your laundry so you can make sure it gets into the dryer before you go to bed.  You don't want to go to the dentist tomorrow only in your underwear."  BTW, Jesse's laundry is Jesse's responsibility, but he is usually reminded by my doing the laundry or he puts his clothes in one of the other hampers that I wash.

I fold the laundry.  This is the only job no one else does.  When I travel I know that upon my return all laundry will be clean and sitting in baskets, slowly wrinkling beyond repair.  Currently, I sit on my bed surrounded by baskets teeming with clean laundry.  There were baskets when I returned home from surgery.  Only when I said I could not maneuver the obstacle course they made did Sean make sure to get two of the three folded and out of the room.  The third is still here.  Since I am off crutches, it has been joined by three more.  I can't wait to see what's here tonight since I've said all laundry needs to be done today before we drown in it.

2. I organize the dishwasher- Rarely does the dishwasher run without my rearranging of dishes.  Yes, I am one of those annoying people.  Still, when Sean or the kids say, "There's no room," I can maneuver another sink-full of dishes into the dishwasher.  Usually the dishwasher is run at night when the hydro (that's short for hydro-electric) rates go down, but lately it's been after breakfast with more dishes in the sink.  Tsk tsk for our hydro rates and water usage.

This morning I wet to the kitchen to discover a "full" dirty dishwasher, dishes in the sink, and dishes on the table (from this morning AND last night).  In just a minute or two, with only a couple of steps taken, all dishes were in the dishwasher, and the load was running.

3. I collect the garbage & recycling from around the house- Each bathroom, plus the kitchen, has a garbage can and a recycling bin.  Additional trash bins are located in the laundry room, den, and kids rooms.  Garbage is collected every other week; recycling is collected on the weeks in between.  Sean regularly makes sure the kitchen garbages are emptied, and that the correct bins are placed by the street every Tuesday.  However, the bins around the house need much more frequent emptying, and this is my job.  Since my surgery the upstairs bathroom bins have been emptied twice; both times by me, and both times because I was afraid they'd overflow to create a hazard to my unstable walking.  The first time the can took three days to return to our bathroom.

4. I change the sheets- No, I don't always change the sheets myself.  I tell children to strip beds, or I leave sheets for our wonderful maid who comes twice a month.  Yes, I know this doesn't have to happen too often.  So maybe you're thinking if I left it alone they'd realize.  The answer to that is no; really, they won't realize.  Yuck.

Finally...  at least for this blog (although there's more)

5. I make the menus and shopping list- Sean & I are trying to eat healthy.  To help that along we are trying to shop healthy.  To do this we are making weekly menus and our lists from this.  For this purpose, and especially for holidays, it is my job to make menus, figure out our pantry inventory, and make the shopping list.  I usually do the shopping, but that's more a convenience issue than a job.  Still, I need to be on top of it all or things are missed, overlooked, or just completely forgotten.  An example- Thursday is American Thanksgiving.  We have never failed to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Sunday I said, "Sean, we need a turkey.  We really needed it Friday, but today would do."  Did we get a turkey?  No. Yesterday I ordered one from Hartman's (the nearby kosher butcher)  It'll be fresh, not frozen (and so it'll cost more, but it'll also taste better).  We're picking it up Wednesday.

There's more.  God forbid Keren or Gavi, and even Jesse to some extent, ask Sean for help with homework, but that's more their problem than Sean's.  I have learned my lesson.  Next time I go to a spa to recover.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's My Turn, Again, by Nora T. Cat

So she did it.  She went to work.  Big mistake, huge.  Now she's cranky and mopey.  Well it serves her right.  I told her, but would she listen.  No one ever works just two hours (unless they're on shift work, or maybe Gandalf.  He's lazy.).  Six hours sitting at a desk.  What was she thinking.  Well hopefully she's learned her lesson.

That Gandalf thought his nurse duty was over with Jen returning to work.  Ha!  I've been working since Jen came home.  He'll have to do the overnight shift.  Serves him right too.  Well, time to chase Jen back to bed.  She's helping Keren with remaking the cookies Keren burnt last night.  No one ever listens to me.

Good night.  Maybe Jen will sing "Soft Kitty" to me.

Back to Blogging, With Sarcasm

After a week of lying on my back with my foot elevated I am soooooooo sick of doing nothing.  I have watched almost as many romantic comedies as when Sean travels.  I have read gossip & decorating magazines (thanks Debbie!).  I have been tended to my cats.

Today I ventured back to work.  My two hours planned for the office became six- definitely tooooooo much.  Now, I am back to my back, foot in the air.  I hate gravity.  Gravity is my nemesis.  It is the bane of my existence.  It causes the blood to flow back to my foot in large quantities to swell and throb.  Have I mentioned I don't like gravity?!

Another annoyance- hospital pre-op and post-op pamphlets.  They are one size fits all.  My pre-op pamphlet instructed me to bring an overnight bag.  Seriously, an overnight back for a twenty minute out-patient surgery?  Post-op my booklet gave me these instructions...

- Do not remove your dressing.  The doctor will remove the bandage at your follow-up visit.
- Remove the bandage and apply antibiotic cream each day, such as polysporin.  These can be purchased in your local pharmacy.

How do I remove and not remove the bandage?

I also received these instructions.  "You have no restrictions.  Walk as pain allows." and "Keep the bandage [which I was not to remove] clean and dry."

My foot in this bandage is the size of my two feet put together.  It does not fit in a shoe.  When I was about to leave the hospital I asked for a post-surgical boot.  The nurse told me it was not "Rx'ed."  I replied that it didn't matter.  If I was to walk on my foot (which I was because crutches were also not Rx'ed) I needed a boot.  After some thought she said she'd get one, but I'd be charged for it.  Whatever (please imagine me rolling my eyes at this).  How can they give me a script for percocet, which I was unlikely to need, but not anything to actually protect the foot?

I have also learned that a mother's work is never done.  I am still the one the kids call.  It's as if they thought I was just hiding in my room.  Sean's idea of "being near" is to be at work.  After all it's just a quick bike ride back to the house.  Of course if I don't have the phone, if he isn't by a phone, if he doesn't have his cell, it really doesn't matter.  Oh, and I'm the problem because I was really crankier than he expected.  Oh boo hoo.  A wonderful husband.  A lousy nurse (Remind me to tell you about the evening I was mugged [it was years ago- so don't freak out.].)  Still, I do love him.

Well I've been sitting long enough.  My foot is throbbing again.  Back to my back...

Nightie night.

It's My Turn, by Nora T. Cat

Gandalf has fallen asleep.  He's such a lump.  Sweet, but a lump.  He's on nurse duty tonight, and has immobilized Jen's leg.  It's necessary.  She's been up too much today, and even went out tonight.  How can we nurse her if she's not here.

Instead we watched over the children.  Jesse and Keren made cookies.  They burnt the whole lot.  I meowed at them to tell them not to put them all in at once, but did they listen?  Of course not.  Human children are so hard to get through to.  Kittens are so much easier.  If they don't listen, you just pick them up and move them away.  But humans... ugh.  Well they all have lessons to learn.  The house smells of burnt cookie.  Not a great smell.  I much preferred the chicken scent of dinner.  Oh well, the cookie odor will have dissipated by morning.

Tomorrow Jen thinks she's going to work.  I'll be the judge of that.  All I need to do is step lightly on that center button of her radio, and, voila!  No alarm.  No work.  She needs the rest.  Even Gandalf's weight may not be enough to hold her.

Kitty Blog 3, by Gandalf the Grey

Thank God Jennifer is walking, although with a very odd gait.  The other night Sean forgot to give me my last serving before bed.  I found it necessary to inform him at 4:00 AM by knocking the cup to the floor.  The rattle woke Jennifer (unfair really since she needs her rest to recuperate), who woke Sean to feed me.  Doesn't he realize I'm wasting away.  I'm almost down to 14 pounds.  At least she always remembers to feed me before bed!

I went for a run this morning.  Back and forth in the yard.  Damn those squirrels.  If they'd only come down from the trees or the six foot fence I know I could get one.  That's put a crimp in this ridiculous diet.  Maybe if I could actually catch a squirrel my people would realize I'm just big naturally and give up this folly.  I'll do it someday.  The squirrels are tricky little buggers.  Especially that grey on with the black shoulders.  Jennifer calls her Granny.  It does look like she's wearing a shawl, but she's anything but old.  Spry thing, she keeps leaping around on the deck railing.  I could get her.  I'm just waiting for my moment.  Yes, that's it, just waiting for my moment.

In the meantime, now that Jennifer is up and walking, Nora and I are trading off nursing duties.  One of us is with her at all times to ensure she has someone to pet or snuggle, but with her moving from place to place we can't both be there.  We need our naps.  Nora took motzei-Shabbat.  I'm on duty tonight.  Jen's got her foot propped up on that pillow again.  She's been using her foot too much.  I'll just lie across her leg so she can't move it.  That'll rest it.

Yawn.  Nap.  Dream.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kitty Blog 2 from Gandalf the Grey

Gandalf here again.  It was a hard morning.  Jennifer didn't move today.  She needed nurse-cat services from both Nora and me.  I did my duty all morning.  It's amazing how tiring sleeping with your needy human can be.  Plus, what an appetite I worked up being warm and sweet.  Finally Sean came home to feed me lunch.  Jennifer was hungry too.  Nora's taking the afternoon shift, and I'm taking a break.  I need a nap.

It's My Turn Part 2, By Nora T. Cat

My second day on nurse-cat duty.  Jennifer's moving less than yesterday.  Oh well, sometimes things must get worse before they get better.  I stayed close all day.  I even moved my spot up on the bed to be closer.  She seems to appreciate it.

For the first time today she went downstairs, albeit reluctantly.  My guess is too much, too soon for yesterday.  Today she's been better.  Maybe tomorrow Gandalf & I will sit on her.  That'll keep her from moving.

Meanwhile, Gandalf did his feline duty this morning, but since noon-ish has disappeared.  He's probably napping, or trying to find the fruit loops the kids might have dropped at breakfast, but I know better.  There are no fruit loops.  They ate waffles.

This blogging thing's not bad.  I just have to keep an ear tuned to Jennifer.  She's not hard to hear- the thud of the crutches, an "ow" or two, and I know to sign off.  Oh... here she comes.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's My Turn- Nora The Cat Speaks

Following her surgery Jennifer is finally learning to understand and appreciate the cat nap.  Humans don't get it.  They run, run, run all day.  Felines, on the other hand, know that to fully appreciate life, one must be well-rested.  Of course one should live one's life to the fullest, but in between amazing adventures, one should take advantage of the divine gift of sleep.  Of course, humans don't really understand this.  If they did they would not give into the great god Hypnos only when confined due to circumstance.  They would find a nice couch, armchair, or whatever and nap after every task.  It's what keeps us focused.

Of course if Jennifer was truly focused, she might notice that I have learned the trick of the computer (not to mention her passwords).  That wireless mouse will work anywhere, and a little discreet walking on the keyboard does the trick.  However, I will admit that I am surprised Gandalf figured it out.  He may weigh more than two of me, but there's no fat in his head.  Still, I am enjoying taunting him a bit with the fact that my bowl is always filled with food.  He can't reach it of course.  He can't jump that high.

It's time for my nurse cat duties.  I keep telling Gandalf not to walk on the patient, especially with his heft, but he doesn't get it.  He claims it's a massage, but I think he's just heavy.  My nursing is more subtle.  I've taken up my sentry point on the corner of the bed.  If I feel the patient needs a pick-me-up I move to allow her to scratch my head and neck for a short bit; then right back to my position.  After all, it's not only about me.