Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Elul and the King is in the Field


The King is in the field, and I'm in Nebraska. There are, of course, plenty of fields here and on the derech (way) to and from Colorado. This monthly trip has become old hat for us, with our Shabbats spent in Omaha becoming a normal part of our lives. There is so much going on, so many emotions floating about. 

The Ba'al Shem Tov said that from Rosh Chodesh Elul (the first of the month) through Rosh HaShanah, "the King is in the field," prepared to listen, accept, and hear our prayers completely and wholly. 

Jews the world over are called upon to recite Tehillim (Psalm) 27 during this month as a segulah (something that changes your path or luck). Although the true source is unknown, the theory behind this custom is that it can reverse even the most set-in-stone heavenly decrees. 

Within Tehillim 27 is a refrain that has been a potent part of my life since I started this blog, as it was once in the header of this blog years and years ago. 

Hear (listen to) my voice, HaShem, when I call; 
be gracious to me, and answer me (7). 

It's easy to feel like our prayers are disappearing into an ether of unanswerable silence. Whether for a simple night of rest after so many sleepless sleeps with a baby at my side or for guidance, patience, and peace after experiencing the threat of forces trying to destroy my life, my spirit, my marriage —  the month of Elul is a time for all prayers. It is a time for impassioned pleas and tearful attempts at vocalizing the pain that this world brings to the soul. The King is in the field, waiting, just waiting to hear voices of repentance. 

When I light Shabbat candles every week, I have a regiment of things I say. I thank HaShem for so many things and then begin my pleas. Requests for guidance, patience, parnassah, work, and a path to be a good Jew. 

Teach me your way, HaShem (11). 

That's also part of the same Psalm. Every year I suddenly remember that this Psalm is my weekly prayer said by the light of the Shabbat candles. The important thing that I frequently forget, however, is also found here:
HaShem is the stronghold of my life, 
from who should I be afraid (1). 

And this, perhaps, is the most important lesson in the entirety of Psalm 27. I can ask, ask, ask and pray, pray, pray and repent all I want, but if I don't believe and trust that HaShem will protect me and provide me strength and never give me something I can't handle, then all is lost. And it's the first line in the Psalm! But my greatest fault and downfall in life is to forget that I'm not in control, that there is so much bigger and more powerful than I am. That I cannot control everything. That sometimes, I have to relent, repent, and remember that any fear I have is because I've forgotten who is responsible for everything. 

I just need to hear the shofar. Just once, and I hope my soul will remember. Traveling is hard when it comes to this time of year. Perhaps we should have brought our own shofar ... 

How do you remember — even in the hardest, most trying moments — that HaShem is your rock and strength? How do you personalize such an ethereal concept? 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Taking Submissions: Top Judaism Rumors and Conversion Myths

Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to rumors about Judaism? Do the "hole in a sheet" or "Jews have horns" myths drive you absolutely nuts? Share your favorite rumors about Judaism with me in the comments!

Also, if there are myths about conversion to Judaism and Jewish converts, share those, too. I'm working on a few articles for About.com, and I want to pick your brain (it's called crowdsourcing, because you, my readers, are amazing).

Want to check out some of my recent articles? Here you go:
Ready? Set? Submit your pet peeves and kvetch at me!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Sitting in the Catbird Seat

Back in January, when Ash was just a wee bean, I wrote about the deliciously awesome Catbird Baby carrier I'd been sent for review. With our dip into babywearing, we were exploring Moby-style wraps, Mei Teis, and Baby Bjorn-style carriers. In case you need a refresher on why "catbird" is the perfect terminology for any schlepped-about baby:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled "The Catbird Seat," which features a character, Mrs. Barrows, who likes to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explains that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber, a baseball broadcaster, and that to Barber "sitting in the catbird seat" meant "'sitting pretty,' like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him."
It was Catbird's mei tei that I initially fell in love with when Ash was small, but as time went on and we became more mobile, the pikkolo became (and still is) my go-to carrier.

Here's Ash at four months after our trip
to the U.S. and before our move to
the U.S.He is loving his carrier because
he can see everything and every one!
When we first visited the U.S. back in February before we made the decision to move, we struggled to pack lightly when it came to baby carriers. Mr. T was fond of the moby-style wrap we'd concocted, while I was using a ring sling. While in the U.S., we even picked up an additional ring sling to replace the one I'd been borrowing, but Mr. T stuck to the stretchy wrap that I just couldn't master.

Almost the moment we got back to Israel, I feel like Ash wasn't perceptive to the ring sling, so I needed an alternative. I finally got to give the pikkolo from Catbird a try, and I haven't looked back.

When we made the move to the U.S. in April, it made life a breeze in the airport when we packed the stroller full of our carry-ons. With no space for Ash in the overflowing stroller, he rode in the Catbird seat! It's amazing how comfortable he was in it and how easy it is to get on and adjust when I'm by myself.

The most surprising thing I've found about having the Catbird pikkolo as a consistency is that Ash knows the carrier. If he's kvetching and whining in the car and losing it when we park and I get out, he calms down and gets excited the moment he sees me putting on the carrier. When he was very little, I used to call it his "special Asher chair," and he now knows that it's his special spot to see everything going on and he brightens up and calms down immediately. Talk about a baby making a positive association!

Do you have a favorite carrier? What do you like about it? Have you changed carriers as your child's needs and size have changed? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confession Time: The Toughest Part About Being in the U.S.

I have a confession to make: It's hard being back in the U.S. Really hard. Yes, I miss my friends and my adopted family back in Neve Daniel and Jerusalem, and I miss the convenience of observing Judaism with ease and a level of comfort I can't find anywhere else. But this isn't what I'm talking about. 

I'm talking about the temptation. 

I didn't grow up Jewish. We all know this. In fact, I didn't start strictly observing things like modesty and keeping kosher until well into my 20s. That's a lot of my life spent with the conveniences of America: McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, and other terrible, bad-for-you convenience restaurants and fast-food stops. I mean, I could probably count the number of home-cooked meals I made in college on my two hands. No feet needed here, folks. College was Subway, Wendy's, Taco John's, Taco Bell, D'Leon's ... (no wonder my pregnancy food was Mexican). 

Do you know how hard it is to drive down the street, starving, and not stop into a Mickey D's for some delicious, greasy French fries? 

Having worked at McDonalds for two years in high school, I know that they are pretty strict about their standards of what they cook and where. The fry stations are used strictly for fries. No chicken nuggets or patties or anything. Just. Fries. 

Knowing this, of course, is hard for me. Yes, there are a million problems with picking up French fries from a completely non-kosher establishment, even if there was a giant box around the fry station that other, non-kosher food never entered, but knowing, just knowing that those are dedicated fryers ... AGH! It kills me. 

The temptation, of course, is constantly pushed down by the fact that I'm a kosher-keeping Jew, of course. Being gluten free also helps push the temptation down because, well, let's be honest, there isn't much eating out I can do here or in Israel where I can eat carefree. 

But it's tough. Yes, this is a first-world problem situation, but it's just plain difficult. You have to constantly have snacks with you and plan meals out like a drill sergeant because if you get caught starving and it's dinnertime, Denver gives you few options for a quick bite to eat. 

There's the ever-amazing Brooklyn Pizza, but how much pizza can you eat in one week? There's a delicious ice cream joint High Point Creamery, but too much ice cream makes for tummy woes and despite an Italian-themed favorite, it isn't a meal. We don't go to the local deli because, well, too many stories about food poisoning and the place just doesn't respect itself enough for me to respect it.  And then there's the fact that all of these restaurants are clustered in a specific part of town absolutely nowhere near where I work. 

Oh what I wouldn't give for a nearby restaurant to go out to lunch with my coworkers. To feel like a normal member of a "working lunch" society. 

The amount of times we've been out running errands and stopped someplace to buy a package of lettuce, some tomatoes, and packaged smoked salmon to hodgepodge a bite to eat would blow your mind. We can't pop into an Aroma or local gas station where the food is just plain kosher like in Israel or even in places like Teaneck or NYC. 

Am I kvetching too much? Perhaps. I'm just feeling the pressure. The pressure of being a full-time working mother who lives someplace that is chock full of Jews but doesn't have the dining and cultural infrastructure to meet the demands.

No worries folks. No slippery slope over here (been there, done that). 

I suppose this is part of teshuvah (repentance). I'm being placed in situations and scenarios where it would be easy for me to eat out here or there just getting the "vegan" or "vegetarian" option like I did once upon a time when I was less than strict in my observance of kashrut

I just keep telling myself: The tummy grumbles and moments of hunger are worth the healthy choices at home. We'll be back in Israel soon. HaShem is working this out with me. One day at a time. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A HydroChic Swimsuit Review

A note about this video: Only one actual photo got taken, as the storm blew in and we blew out (of the pool, that is). And with that, on with the show!

 

Have you tried out HydroChic or another modest swimwear collection? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Good news! Use coupon SUMMER14 to get 15% off any non-sale items.