Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sukkot in the Land of Memory

Today is one of those days that's made for Mumford and Sons circa winter 2010-11.

Those were melancholy days where I spent a lot of time on the backroads of Pennsylvania on dangerous, winding roads drifting between a coffee shop and a Poconos bungalow that was never mine.

Leaves in burnt orange, rusty red, and deep marigold mixed with splashes of rain all send me back to that place, and Colorado is deep in that weather at the moment.

After a three-day holiday (that was the first two days of Sukkot plus Shabbat) home with the little one, where I was reminded -- once again and for the last time -- that I simply can't take Ash out at night, the oddest thing about not having Mr. T around on holidays and Shabbat became apparent.

Kiddush. Motzi. Havdalah.

It might seem like minutiae, but there are many things as far as ritual in Judaism that I was never keen on making my own. I know a lot of families where the husband does kiddush (that's the blessing over the wine on holidays and Shabbat typically) and the wife handles motzi (that's the blessing over the challot, or bread). In most communities havdalah (the blessings to mark the end of a holiday or Sabbath) is done at synagogue or handled by the husband at home. Yes, it seems very patriarchal, but for some reason, I really like those aspects of my married life.

I've been trying to remember whether, when I was single and religious, I did these things at home, relied on synagogue for them, or just didn't do them at all. Part of me thinks I heard the prayers at synagogue and covered my bases there, but part of me also feels like maybe I just didn't do them when I was alone at home, which is probably why I tried desperately to get meals out on the holidays so I didn't have to do them myself.

Does it sound weird? Being so unwilling to do a few simple blessings over some wine or bread once a week? After all, a woman is totally allowed and, in fact, encouraged to make kiddush. There's nothing about a woman not being able to say motzi, either.

There's just something that's always been comfortable in my world about having my husband, the "head" of the house, the super-duper, obligated-to-do-so-many-mitzvahs guy, taking control of these ritual acts. I'm all in love with being a progressive, forward-thinking working woman, but some things just feel right a certain way.

So I went through the motions, with Ash squiggling about, saying the prayers and inhaling gluten-free challah at a table set for the night meals. We'll repeat the ritual again at the end of Sukkot, too. But I'll be glad when the holidays are over.

The thing I keep telling myself is that the pain of separation from a spouse for the potential of months, not weeks, is that this is how people used to live. Husbands would go on trading routes or off to war for months, if not years, leaving wives and children back home to fend for themselves. In those days (even 50-100 years ago), there wasn't Skype or FaceTime or Facebook or texting or other instant forms of communication. There was a hope that -- maybe -- you'd hear from someone in a few weeks or months.

In reality, I'm spoiled. I'm lucky. I'm able to chat with Mr. T daily (save the three-day holiday situation and Shabbat, of course).

Then again, as a good friend R.C. pointed out, women also didn't have the obligations of full-time jobs back in those days. They stayed home and kept house or ran the shop with hired help or other similar assistance.

Although I'm going to miss many months of hearing my husband say prayers over the wine and bread we eat on a weekly basis, I'm blessed to live in the 21st century and in a Jewish community where people are ready and willing to help -- even if I don't always take people up on their kindness.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Update: Advance Parole, Immigration, Formula, and Daycare

Stay strong, they say, as I do things I had never intended had I ever become a mother.

And here I am, a mother, with Ash taste-testing some formula I purchased at Target while shopping for his daycare goodies (bed sheets, blankets, bibs, food) for his first day of impromptu daycare tomorrow. For now, he'll be attending daycare with other younguns every Tuesday and Wednesday, so I can get what little work I have to get done done and search for other jobs and interview for those jobs, and if, b'ezrat HaShem, I get one of those jobs we'll talk about full-time daycare.

I lament that I'm trying him out on formula, but this kid is crazy about solid food and seems to only feed at night and in the early morning hours, which means the mommy cow is low on supplies, and, paired with the fact that I've been home basically every day for the past however many months, means we have zero provisions for Ash in the freezer or fridge.

He's chugging the stuff. I'm insufficient. But you know what? It's fine. I'm fine.

I never wanted to put Ash in daycare. I always told myself that if I did have a kid I'd be a stay-at-home mom, or at least a mom who worked from home and was able to manage with a kid.


I've also been sleep training Ash while his tatty is gone, because that's what happens when you make one parent responsible for getting the little one to sleep. I am miserable at getting Ash to sleep, so sleep training it is. Luckily, he's taking to it. A few minutes of tears, and he's out. Usually. It's the napping that's suffering, which is why it's 5:36 p.m. and he's asleep. (I guarantee he'll wake up again in about an hour.)

So Mr. T is out of the country indefinitely, thanks to an immigration law that says it takes forever once you start green card processing to get your travel documents, and if you don't have your travel documents, you're stuck in this country. Parent dies? Sorry, unless the right USCIS agent tells you to go to a local office to get an emergency "advance parole" document, you're up a creek. Unless, of course, you go ahead and leave the country anyway, in which case you screw yourself to the point of not being able to re-enter the USA. So that's where we are. I've emailed state senators, I've emailed local representatives. I've talked to a handful of lawyers. Everyone says the same thing:

Why did he leave? Did he know what he was doing when he left? That was a really stupid move. You guys really screwed up. Sorry, there's nothing that can be done. The law is the law. He'll have to transfer his case to the UK or Israel and wait 8-12 months for consular processing. Yes, that means he won't be able to see his son. Yes, that means he'll miss his son's first birthday. Sorry.

So there we are. The result was an emergency visit to the local daycare, an explanation of logistics, finances, and realities. We'll see how I do. We'll see how Ash does.

I keep telling myself that HaShem doesn't hand us anything that we can't handle. I'm starting to believe that this is a test of strength, commitment, and responsibility. Am I up to the challenge? I have to be. For Ash. Everything's for the Shmoogedy Boo. His happiness and well being are my utmost concern, and ultimately those things are dependent on my own sanity, happiness, and health.

Where will this road take us? Who knows. But I must continue to let HaShem guide me and lead me, however obscure and confusing the journey is.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sukkot and the Ushpizin

I can't help but reshare this infographic for Sukkot. Feel free to print out your own version and hang it up in the sukkah! I have one for ours, even though we won't be building one this year (Mr. T is indefinitely stuck in the UK, so Ash and I are relying on the kindness of strangers for meals, friendship, and sanity).

Also, if you're curious about the ushpizin and the traditions surrounding these special guests, check out my article over on The Seven Guests Who Make the Sukkah Special

Do you do anything special for Sukkot? Do you have any unique traditions? Let me know!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I'm 31 Today

Yea, verily, today I am 31 years old. I have been on this earth for 31 intensely perplexing, often stressful and emotionally exhausting, years.

I started my birthday with a 9-month-old pretending I was some mighty mountain to be conquered while spouting "Bahhhh" sounds and a notification that my bank account was overdrawn.

Then I got dressed in my birthday outfit (thanks inlaws!) and took off to Comcast (aka Xfinity), where I've been now three times over the past several days because some stranger managed to cancel our cable and internet over Rosh HaShanah. "We really don't know what happened," they continue to tell me.

And then? Then I went into my former place of employment and picked up my things and stuff and said "see ya!" That was both awkward, super awkward, and depressing.

Now we're trying to plan for -- G-d forbid -- the worst as Mr. T's grandmother appears to not be doing very well back in the UK, which means a nightmare of immigration problems as we are still, still, still waiting for his green card, travel documents, and work permit to come through. If we leave the country without getting approval, then the paperwork is canceled and we start again from scratch. Yay!

But hey. There's an ice cream cake in my future, a gift card to Old Navy to be spent, and, who knows, maybe I'll land an amazing job in the next few days or so. Unfortunately KISSmetrics was a bust (killed me, it was the perfect job).

Do I sound kvetchy? I am. Maybe Aimee Mann said it best in "31 Today." Minus the Guiness, of course.

"I thought my life would be different somehow."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shanah Tovah!

Although we're living in galut (exile, or better yet, the U.S. and not Israel), there is something special about this place during the holidays. Not living in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York or another city with a giant Jewish community means that the chances of running into a Jew, you would think, are slim.

Being in Denver this time of year, as Rosh HaShanah is on our doorstep, greetings and connections have popped up in the most unusual of places.

I stopped into Target this morning to spend a gift card that my in-laws sent me early for my birthday (yipes, turning 31 on the 30th) and heard greetings of "Shanah Tovah!" coming from nowhere in particular (seriously, I looked, I didn't see any Jews, I just heard the voices ... am I nuts?). Walking to the car in the parking lot after my migraine-fueled adventure into yellow cardigan purchasing, I saw a very tall, tanned blonde piling out of a minivan full of men.

As she approached our car, she took one look at our Na Nach sticker, one look at me (tichel wearing) and shouted "Shanah Tovah!" A bit startled, I responded in kind.

A bit later, while Ash and I did our final run out for groceries (seriously, does holiday shopping ever end?) at Trader Joe's (where everything is now pumpkin spiced, including the pumpkin seeds), the girl at the next check counter popped over to help bag our groceries.

Hannah, with a hamsa and star of David around her neck, wished us a "Shanah Tovah!" and proceeded to explain how she was working during the holiday. She did, however, make sure to pick up apples, honey, and a pomegranate. Although it bummed me out that she has to work instead of enjoy the holiday in all its joy and splendor, I understand where she's coming from.

I've always waffled between being Jewish being easier/harder outside of Israel, where being Jewish is a breeze, it's a given, it's carefree. In the U.S. you have to really try hard to find the little Jewish sparks here and there, especially when you don't live in a community like Teaneck, New Jersey.

And when you do find those little connections, it's beautiful and reminds me that the Jewish people are here, there, and everywhere -- in their own way and their own style.

Shanah Tovah everyone!