Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The SAHM Experiment: I really suck at being a mom



I don't have enough fingers to count the amount of times today that I yelled at my 3.5 year old to "just leave me alone, I'm trying to do something!"

This kid, who is so aggressively extroverted and who has the imagination of a science-fiction writer thrown in a blender with a fantasy writer, just wanted some attention. He always wants my attention. He never stops talking, even when I'm not in the room. I find him talking to himself frequently when I'm not around, especially if I'm in a bad mood. I am 99 percent positive he is talking to me, but he feels so bad when I growl, "What do you want?!" that he just says he's talking to himself.

During this whole SAHM Experiment so far (we're technically on week #4), I've had some amazing days and I've had some really lousy, "Why am I filled with so much rage toward such tiny people?" moments. It's been demoralizing, embarrassing, and it's given me a terrible bounty of guilt in which I continue to ask myself, "Seriously, you're a mother?"

The thing is, I can easily pinpoint why I suck at being a mom sometimes. It's easy for me to know when I'm going to lose my mind and be a total jerk to my kids. The one thing that causes me to go off the handle and treat my kids like they're employees in The Devil Wears Prada?

Work.

And it's not even like it's earth-shattering, deadline-driven work. It's not like I'm racing to cure cancer or something. It's "Oh did you post this to Facebook?" or "Hey can you let us know when you can finish that flyer?"

Yes, people have businesses to run and livelihoods to consider, but at the end of the day? None of this is an emergency. These adult people won't remember in a month whether a tweet went out at noon or if a Facebook event got posted two weeks prior to the even or three weeks prior to the event.

But my kids? My kids. Sigh.

I'll be honest in that I don't remember much about my childhood. The moments I start remembering are the ones that are painful, hurtful, the ones that make me angry. Why is this? I don't really know. Did I have a terrible childhood? I don't think so. My mom stayed home with us, my dad had a decent job, and we were comfortably middle class until I was in middle school. After that, I remember everything, but what brooding, angsty teenager doesn't?

I have so many regrets about the past two weeks. Not so many about the two weeks we were in England because I was completely and utterly shut off those weeks. I didn't dwell on Facebook (I just plastered photos of my awesome trip) or Twitter, and I didn't obsessively fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. I conversed, I schlepped, I read, I watched British quiz shows, I relaxed, I just was. I was with my family. And it was good. I had patience, I had kindness, I had understanding.

I didn't once tell my kids to shut up because I was working and just needed to finish this one ... last ... thing.

So why do I struggle to prioritize? Why did I sit on my computer this morning instead of sitting at the table while the kids chowed down? Why did I fidget with my phone nervously checking emails instead of ignoring my phone and engaging my kids in something they wanted to do? Why am I so anxious all the time about whether there's something I'm supposed to be doing but I'm not?

I never wanted kids. I always remind people of that. I was always career-minded, career-driven. In one timeline, I would have been on the copy desk at The New York Times by now. Maybe even running the show. Unmarried, living in midtown, my spare time spent in coffee shops and book stores.

When I met Mr. T that all changed. I wanted kids, I don't know why. I wanted kids and to be someone important and influential. I wanted to be a career woman with kids and a happy husband and a perpetually clean house and at some point I was convinced I could do and have all of those things.

What a crock.

The thing is, you can't have it all. Because when you try to have it all, something, someone, usually gets left behind. As I stay home with my kids, all day every day, and as I flee the moment my husband comes home when I can in order to regain some sense of who I am, and as I cry in the car listening to "Glycerine" by Bush and thinking of high school and how I wanted so desperately to be a writer someday ... I realize that I have to stop running at full speed.

I'm 33, almost 34. I've got time. I can't rush through it all and miss something, or someone. I don't want to scream at my kids because my attention is misplaced. I don't want them to see me that way. I want to be able to capture every ridiculous moment and second of who they are.

Yesterday, Little T was eating ants in the backyard. Today, she ate sand at the park and then came home to eat day-old macaroni off the floor. She loves having her neck tickled and kissed and she does laps in the house like it's going out of style. She's so smart. You can ask her to do anything, and she knows exactly how and what to do. "Go get your shoes," "Go find your doggy," "Take a drink of water, please." She's going to rule the world, she is.

Today, Asher told me a story about a "Very Tired Mommy" and her extravagant adventures kicking things, and it somehow ended up with a duck and a policeman. We played a game where he put a Target diaper box on his head and we pretended it was his house, so I'd knock on the door with a Duplo Joker figurine and the Joker would try to sneak his way in. He thought it was hilarious and we did the same thing, over and over, for a half-hour. He's brilliant, my son, creative and silly to excess.

I can't imagine missing out on who my kids are now. I can't wait to someday tell them about the way they were. I just hope they look back and, if they remember, they can say I was good to them. The best I could be.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Garden Lites Veggie Chili & Cornbread

Once upon a time (in 2008), I spent quite a bit of time on Weight Watchers while living in Chicago, and I managed to lose about 25 pounds in that effort. I did this through a pretty strict way of eating, not because I had to, but because it was easy and quick.

I ate a lot of Lean Cuisine, Subway, and some specific meal options from Trader Joe's (I miss their chicken fingers and potato wedges, I'll be honest). Those Lean Cuisines were a gift when I was hungry but couldn't muster the energy or brainpower to make something, but then?

Then I went kosher. Unfortunately, the kosher world has yet to properly hop on the "prepared frozen meal" bandwagon. This probably leaves hundreds of thousands of kosher-keeping Jews out in the dark when it comes to having a healthy, quick, and easy resource for lunch at work, while traveling, or when you're just too tired to come up with something to eat that isn't gross, disgusting kosher fast food (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with kosher fast food).

Then? Then Garden Lites came on the scene. Their products are both kosher and gluten free, which is amazing for someone like me, and they're delicious, which is a tough thing to find in a lot of prepackaged kosher products in the U.S. They had, for awhile, some little souffle-style options, but to be honest, they weren't filling; they weren't a meal.

So, to my amazingly happy and giddy utter surprise, while recently at my local King Soopers, I spotted them ... on sale ... through February 2018!? Holy Moses. Yes, I spotted this:


I bought two boxes of the Veggie Chili & Cornbread (because I love veggie chili) and a box of their Mac & Cheese, too. I was going to do a video review of this, but, well, I was hungry and I inhaled it in all of it's fresh, delicious, non-frozen-food-tasting glory.

I was most amazed by the cornbread, because gluten-free cornbread is often stiff, crumbly, and tasteless, but Garden Lites somehow managed to make the most fluffy, fresh-tasting cornbread I've ever had. This meal doesn't taste like it came out of the freezer, and that's what I love about it the most. The cheesy topping was oozy-gooey, and the chili had the perfect amount of kick, reminding me of a standout Chili Cook-Off-style recipe.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Garden Lites, and I'm really thankful, too. It's not easy being kosher and gluten free sometimes, because there are a lot of convenience foods that are just lacking. Yes, I love getting in the kitchen and whipping up Gnocchi with Eggplant and Mushrooms with a Radish Green and Purple Basil Pesto (no, really, I made this for dinner last night), but with both kids running around during the day, I need something quick, healthy, and filling.

Garden Lites, you've done it. You've finally done it. Please, whatever you do, don't ever lose your kosher certification. I couldn't get through this Stay-at-Home Mom Experiment without you!

(Thought: I might buy a bunch of these and serve them up for Shabbat and see what happens ... is that crazy? Maybe, but, come on, until Garden Lites makes a family-size version of this, what's a mom to do?!)

---------

Product Details:

Ingredients: veggie chili (diced tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], black beans [black beans, water, salt], onion, crushed tomatoes [tomatoes, salt, citric acid], zucchini, broccoli, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, roasted corn, sugar, corn starch, canola oil, lemon juice, sea salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, ancho pepper, chipotle pepper), gluten free cornbread (corn, egg whites, brown rice flour, sugar, corn meal, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), soluble corn fiber, chili powder, salt, xanthan gum, cheddar cheese(pasteurized cultured milk, enzymes, salt). Contains: eggs, milk. Gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free.

Nutrition: (10 points on Points Plus WW System)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gary Vaynerchuk, Expectations, and the Year of Chavi

I have about a million topics I'd love to write about, and, at some point, I will. It probably won't be any time soon because I'm essentially taking the next month off for family, travel, and more family. But after that? I'm hoping to have a completely clear picture of what I want.

Basically, here's what's happening:

  • I'm pulling both kids out of daycare for the rest of the summer. They're home with me until August 21st full time. (I'm nuts!)
  • When the kids go back to school, they're only in Monday, Wednesday, Friday, so they'll be home with me on Tuesday/Thursday, and I'm officially going to be a SAHM.
  • I'm refocusing my professional world on writing, so I'll be submitting pitches, articles, and hoping to revitalize this blog to the glory it once was ... except it'll probably be a lot of "Holy Crap What Have I Done?" posts. 
  • I'm giving up 90 percent of my social media jobs in order to focus on all the above items. Also? I'm pretty much over social media for business. It's a moving target with zero satisfaction 99 percent of the time. 
  • I'm shutting my LuLaRoe business down in early August (unless some magical epiphany changes my mind). I've been doing it for a year now, and it hasn't made any money and I've fallen out of love with the business model and the hustle. I love a good hustle, but not this one, because it feels like I'm drowning most of the time. When I'm 100 percent in the thick of it, I am happy, but I can't be 100 percent in 100 percent of the time, and that's what the job requires.  So join the Facebook group and stay tuned for the GOOB sale. 
  • We're going to turn the LuLaShed into a She Shed/Guest House, so come visit!
Whew. 

The small jobs I'm holding onto on a consistent basis are going to be a test on my nerves, but I'm holding onto them for good reason. Financially, we still need me to have a consistent monthly income of some variety, because even PT daycare is crazy, unbelievably, unnecessarily expensive. And I'm trying to really focus on the following to get through it all (and yes, I made this graphic):

You see, my problem, even as a contractor, is that I'm constantly disappointed in everyone around me. I have major expectations for everyone, except probably my kids. Oddly enough, my children are the two people in my life who I sort of look at and say, "Nah, they're good." Mr. T was trying to teach Asher how to catch a ball and he wasn't grasping it and I was like, "Whatever. He wants to just play and be goofy, let him." I don't expect Asher to be anything. I know he'll be something, and whatever that is will be awesome because he's such a uniquely unique kid. 

But my husband? I have a million expectations of him. I expect him to clean the dishes in the sink when they pile up because, come on, common sense, right? I expect him to throw laundry in when it's overflowing. I expect him to not leave clothes laying around on the floor. I expect him to put down his phone when the kids are whining and need attention. I expect a lot from him, and I'm always disappointed. This means tension and a lot of unhappy grumpy moments. 

My clients, too. I'm always disappointed in my clients. I have crazy and often ridiculous expectations of everyone. It's not because I'm a snob or holier-than-thou, it's because I believe in a hardcore work ethic and quality. I believe so hard in the hustle and producing amazing, quality work that is practically perfect. That's just how I'm wired. But because of this, I'm disappointed by everyone all the time, and it's probably why some people think I'm a jerk or a snob. Honestly, it's me, not you. 

I usually don't verbalize my disappointment because I know that other human beings are not like Chaviva the human being, so I truck along and often do more work or faster work or internalize all the anger/frustration/disappointment until I melt from the inside out. I take on all the things in order to do them right and in the best way possible, because I get to a point where I think, "No one can do this the way I know it should be done so that the world can accept, love, internalize, and be changed by it." 

Over the past several years, I've gotten better, slowly, but surely, at letting things go. At holding the "Not my circus, not my monkeys" philosophy. I've gotten better about stepping back from things and letting other people man the ticket booth and clean up the messes. It's hard, but I do it. I swallow my thoughts and disappointment and frustration and let it happen. It's hard. It's really, really hard for me. It's why I often work for free or for less than I should, because I know I can do it right, and I can do it quickly. 

But it's also resulted in people undervaluing my work, or not wanting to work with me at all. 

So I read this article by Gary Vaynerchuk, who I consider G-d's gift to people like me. He's at a point in his career where he can say quite literally anything with as many expletives as humanly possible and it's a punch to the gut and people love it. They want more of it. I see a lot of myself in him, but I'm a million years away from Gary Vee is, so I just borrow and internalize his wisdom. Relevant now:
It’s not about being disappointed that people can’t deliver. It’s not a cynical and negative point of view. I actually think it’s a very optimistic point of view. It speaks to my internal confidence and internal gratitude and empathy. Having zero expectations is a cognitive trait that has lead me to become more independent. I don’t need anything from anyone else. I’m not expecting anything. It’s just the way it’s always been. As I get into my early forties I can clearly see it’s been one of the reasons that I’ve been successful in life, let alone business. When you have zero expectations, everything else is just a pleasant surprise.
This is beautiful, because it's better. It's the best. When you have expectations, people will always disappoint you. When you have no expectations, you'll always be surprised, and being surprised is a positive, fun thing. Who doesn't love coming home to a clean house or a giant cake with sprinkles and balloons and all the good and happy things? Nobody, that's who.



So life is changing for me right now. I'm going to write my heart out, I'm going to stop expecting things from people, and I'm going to love my life and stop drowning in stress, disappointment, and anxiety.

It's the year of Chaviva.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Life in Pieces: Am I a Mommy Blogger?

My greatest fear in life is becoming irrelevant. The answer from my Facebook friends, as suspected, was that I'll always be relevant ... to my kids.

When I tell people that I never wanted to be a parent, that's the absolute truth. I was terrified of the parenting mistakes I would make, a product of my environment and all. I was afraid that my anxiety and bouts with depression would be terrible for a child. I was worried that my professional pursuits would always make a child play second-fiddle, resulting in them growing up and hating me. I suppose they're all natural fears or anxieties about having kids, but after my first marriage ended rather depressingly, I realized I probably wasn't going to get married again, and I probably wasn't going to ever have kids, and I was truly okay with that.

But then, of course, the narrative knows that I met Mr. T, got pregnant right away, and now I have two kids (after swearing the moment Asher was born that I'd never have more because of how traumatic it was). And then, after Little T, and juggling two, I once again vowed to never, ever, ever, ever have kids ever again. And I'm okay with that.

------

When I started this blog in April 2006, an amazing eleven years ago, I was almost at my Reform conversion, graduating college, and heading off for my prestigious Dow Jones News Fund internship at The Washington Post. I spent a year in Washington, D.C., alone, miserable, and depressed. I walked away from that internship-turned-full-time job without reservation. People told me I was crazy, that people would kill for that job. And now, looking back at that decision to leave, and seeing colleagues still there during all the Trump drama, I have to wonder if I missed out. I loved writing headlines, I loved finessing the copy of amazing reporters who were terrible writers. I was good at what I did.

I left DC for Chicago, for a boy, and ended up spending a little over a year working at the University of Chicago as the "everything girl" for Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman. That 24/7 job is what forced me into attempting Shabbat observance, to deciding to pursue an Orthodox conversion, and to applying and entering graduate school for a master's in Judaic studies from 2008-2010 in Storrs, Connecticut.

During my time there, I met my first husband, got to catalog and inventory hundreds of donated books, including an impressive collection of haggadot, and to fully immerse myself in Judaism and Judaic literature that I so miss. Those were years where the only work I did was schoolwork, because my hours spent cataloging weren't really work, there were a joy. I taught freshman, I graded papers. It was a dream. It gave me a glimpse of a future I thought I could have in academics, as an educator, a researcher, a dreamer.

Then I got married in May 2010, we moved to New Jersey, and I started up at NYU, pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic studies and Jewish education. A year later, my marriage was over, and the academic program was a repeat of what I got in Storrs, so I quit and skipped town for Colorado.

After a year in Colorado working for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, paying off all my debt, and finding myself after going off the derech and back on, I made aliyah in October 2012. While in Israel, I found work as a content writer, social media manager, and wife. But the paid work was inconsistent and unpredictable, my father was sick, and we ended up back in the States in April 2014.

My work in the U.S. was inconsistent until April 2015 when I got a job at a Silicon Valley startup, and I worked there for two years, while taking side projects and freelance one-off gigs to supplement my income. I left that job in February and have been floating since then, dreaming.

Dreaming of being a full-time writer.

------

The thing about Mommy Bloggers, is that they're usually Stay-at-Home Moms who have the fodder of finger painting and playdates to inform their posts. Many turn their blogs into money-making enterprises with product reviews and sponsorships. For some Mommy Bloggers, writing is a full-time job, and every moment of life is a potential post waiting to happen.

I took the plunge and the kids will be home with me for two full weeks in August when we return from the UK and, starting August 21st, they'll be home with me every Tuesday and Thursday. My calendar is already full of events through the end of the year: Free days at the museums, library reading time, etc.

The question, I guess, is whether I'll get lost in moments with my children or turn my pen toward being a Mommy Blogger. The angle?

Career-Focused anti-Mommy turned SAHM Mommy Blogger

Yes, the kids are still in daycare three days a week, but my professional pursuits are sort of in limbo right now. I'm over social media and digital marketing. I'm not interested in that grind anymore professionally. I'm still all over it for my personal "brand," but professionally, I don't find great joy in hustling for others.

So my days alone will be writing, writing, and more writing. Cooking. Reflecting. Hopefully just enjoying what I have, where I'm going, who I am.

Or, maybe, figuring out who I am at all and whether being relevant really matters.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The One-Third Life Crisis: Full-Time Hustle to SAHM?

I kind of feel like I've been in a one-third life crisis for awhile now.

Professionally, I've been working in social media since the dark ages. Since leaving The Washington Post 10 years ago, my professional self has existed in the realm of social media, digital marketing, and content, in that order. I spent years hitting lists of influential Twitterers and bloggers, and I turned my personal success in the social sphere into a career.

At first, it was Jewish nonprofits, and then it became for-profits, and then it was more Jewish nonprofits, and, eventually, I ended up working for a well-funded hardware startup in Silicon Valley. It was my dream turned reality, and I was happy. I had autonomy, I was bought into the brand 100 percent, I believed in the vision and the dream. I loved my job. I really, really loved my job.

That job ended in February for reasons that I cannot and will not get into here, and since then, I float through my days with giant question marks above my head. I know that I no longer love social media. It's a 24/7 slog of work that just goes and goes and you never really hit your target. There's always something else, something bigger, something new you have to do to stay relevant.

When my most recent full-time job of two years ended, I realized what I really wanted to do was write. Writing has always been my #1 passion. I've got journals going back to first grade. I used to do slam poetry. My blog used to be an every-day pursuit, sometimes with a multi-day posting schedule. I had so much to say, so much to share with the world.

Now I'm slogging at a few part-time social media gigs, and I'm basically working to pay for childcare. It feels like I've got the boulder on my shoulders and I take one step and fall down under the crushing weight of the rock.

I spent a full-time week doing part-time work, and I fill those hours with my clients because -- even though it's part-time work -- what else am I going to do? I apply for jobs, I pursue and bid on content gigs, and I'm not getting anywhere. My happiest, best day recently was when I wrote a blog post for MazelTogether, and it went up into the world.

The reason I love content is because you research it, you write it, you edit it, you post it, and it's out in the world. Your job is done. What happens after that is up to SEO and SEM masters. Your words fly, they ripple, they're out there. You don't have to constantly hit the copy over the head for months on end trying to make something happen.

So I'm at this weird juncture in my life crisis. We can't afford to continue with daycare at this rate, and I can't continue doing work that isn't satisfying and is only paying the daycare bill. Mr. T is working a more lucrative job now as an electrician (his life's work, it's what he loves B"H), which gives us a bit of leeway, but not much. But every penny I make goes back into daycare, which just doesn't make sense anymore. Especially if I'm not happy, right?

Thus, I'm toying with bringing the kids home part time. Or maybe even full time. I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll get a nanny (they're cheaper than daycare), or maybe I'll keep them in daycare part time so they can continue being the amazing, social creatures that they are. I'm not cut from the FT SAHM cloth, I know this. But something's got to give.

And, as Mr. T keeps telling me ... I need to reset.

I've been going and going and going and going since, well, since I was 13 (nearly 14) years old and got my first job. Whether in school or working or both, I've been hustling for 20 years. And I'm not happy with it anymore.

I know having my kids home will allow me to focus 100% on them because job responsibilities won't bog me down. I'll be more active and hopefully lose some weight and get healthy. I'll be a present mom and get to enjoy all that my littles have to offer.

At the same time, I worry about losing relevance. I worry about falling even further out of touch with the digital world that nurtured me all these years, that gave me a platform and space to be Chaviva. I worry about not being in the hustle. I'm a working girl, I'm a Lady Boss. I work hard, even when I don't have to or shouldn't. It's just who I am.

Or, maybe, it'll just give me room to grow as a writer. Maybe all that time with my kids will make great fodder.

I need to reset. I need to stop planning everything out. Man plans, G-d laughs, right?


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Introverted Mom with the Extroverted Child

I've been hustling hardcore to find work as a writer these days. It's what I love, it's what I'm best at, and it's what I should be doing with my life. Luckily, some brave souls are biting and taking me up on my writing chops.

Up today on MazelTogether:


Monday, June 5, 2017

Catastrophizing and the Sweat Lodge Cafe

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. It's a coffee shop I frequent, although I haven't been here in a few weeks because I was in NYC for work and then the kids were scratching my ankles for a week while daycare was out of session for Memorial Day and Shavuot.

Now, I'm sitting here, watching the clock countdown because I've got to leave and get to a meeting at 10 a.m. The coffee shop is baking, and I probably shouldn't have even stayed because it's uncomfortably warm.

"It's a new thing we're trying," the barista jokes. "The big shvitz!"

I start conceptualizing. There are cat cafes and rat cafes and maybe there should be sweat lodge cafes.

I've been here about an hour after the longest daycare drop-off ever, and I've got basically two weeks of work to catch up on.

And now, there's someone, or something, tumbling around on the roof. Two of the baristas went outside about 20 minutes ago to try and figure out what it was.

"I don't see a ladder," one said. "So that's weird."

The tumbling and banging is right above my head, and I'm conceptualizing again. Or, rather, I'm catastrophizing.

I can't remember where I read the term, but I immediately realized that there's a name for what I've always called Sense of Impending Doom Syndrome, or SIDS for short. Yes, I know there's already a thing called SIDS, but there we are.

I have this ridiculous tendency, and I've been like this since I was a teenager. I might have started this even younger, but I remember it becoming somewhat debilitating as a teenager.

What I do, is I calculate and conceptualize every possible negative outcome of a situation. Some people do this with major things like skydiving or flying, but I do this with the every day, the minute moments that most people don't even think about. I do this walking down a sidewalk, where, for example, if I see a crack in the pavement I assess the options of what could happen.

  1. I could trip and fall flat on my face and chip my front teeth. Or they could fall out. 
  2. I could trip and fall and end up in the street, getting run over by a car. 
  3. I could trip and fall and break my wrist trying to break my fall. 
You get the gist. It's anxiety to the nth

So here I am, catastrophizing. Anticipating the inevitable reality that this person is probably working with heavy machinery right above me and will fall through the ceiling, crushing me, as I sit here narrating the entire incident. Will I be able to hit Publish before he hits me? Will I die? Will this be my last great gift to the world? 

Or will I make it to my 10 a.m. meeting?

Wherever I read this term, this concept of catastrophizing, there was another concept discussed. Instead of pondering all of the negative outcomes, consider the positive outcomes. 

Now, how exactly do I get myself in the headspace to do that. And if I were in that headspace, what would the outcome be? 

I'm seriously stream of conscious writing this here, and I just realized that the guy on the roof is probably fixing the A/C, which is probably why it's a million degrees in here, and if he fixes it, then I won't be baking and that would be awesome. Yay positive outcomes! On the other hand, by the time he gets it running I'm probably going to be out of here at my 10 a.m. meeting.

Either way, a sweat lodge cafe is a terrible idea. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Diving into Mrs. Beeton for a Questionable Chocolate Bundt Cake Recipe

I recently mentioned wanting to get a bundt pan to my husband. I don't remember why exactly, but it seemed like something I needed to do, especially after making the most epicly delicious Sweet Potato Cake from an old IKEA cookbook that I bought ages ago and never used until recently. It's actually less a cookbook and more of a guide to great kitchen living, with tips on using scraps and how to sort your produce. It's more of a coffee table book chock full of delicious, Nordic recipes. The Sweet Potato Cake recipe was a huge hit with my munchkins, even with my gluten-free substitute flour. 

But back to the bundt pan.

When I mentioned it, my husband said, "Oh, I have a great recipe!" He led me into the kitchen to his ancient copy of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, a mainstay of the British world, and pulled out a barely legible chocolate bundt cake recipe written on a scrap of paper. 



We’re going out for Shabbat lunch, and I'd offered to make dessert, so make the cake I did. But not before calling and/or messaging him a half-dozen times to verify aspects of the recipe. 

"How much is in a 'packet of baking powder' exactly? We don't have packets of baking powder in America." 
“5 teaspoons of baking powder, seriously? But only 1.25 cups flour? Really?”

"The recipe says milk, but there's no milk listed in the ingredients!"  
"Really, only 1.25 cups flour, really?" 
I'll admit I fudged a bit and doubled the amount of cocoa powder it called for because it just didn't look chocolatey enough. After I got it into the bundt pan and into the oven, I made another half-batch of the batter because I didn't believe it was going to work. I put the half batch in some mini bundt pans I'd gotten and into the oven it all went. 

When I pulled them out, I was skeptical. I took a taste. It's not half bad, for being a questionable scrap-o-paper recipe made with gluten-free flour. It's not as sweet as American cakes, but honestly that's probably a good thing. 

"Let me make it," my husband says. "With real flour."

[Above written before Shabbat. Below written after.]

Luckily, the Shabbat guests loved the cake. It was different, but super tasty. We also checked in with his mum after Shabbat and found out that her packet of baking powder actually contains only 3 teaspoons of baking powder, so that might make a difference. 

Also, over Shabbat, there was discussion about the name of the pan used to make the bundt cake, and Mr. T swore up and down that there was a different name the this mom used for the pan. After Shabbat, he asked, and lo and behold, he wasn't making it all up:


So here's the recipe transcribed, in case you want to make it yourself in a gugelhupf or bundt pan:

"Choc Cake"

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup flour
2 Tbls cocoa powder (original recipe called for 2 tsp, but we asked; it's Tbls)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs (possibly 3, we still aren't sure)
1 packet baking powder (in UK, and the note says, "if not self raising" ... this = 3 tsp baking powder)

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Grease tin.
  3. Mix flour, sugar.
  4. Add mix, oil, and eggs.
  5. Bake for 35 min approx.
Notes: 
  • It turns out self-rising flour is preferred in the UK, but whatever you have should work.
  • I used Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour for this recipe. 

IKEA Sweet Potato Muffin Recipe


Once up on a time, I loved eating at the IKEA cafe. When I went kosher, this was no longer a possibility, until I lived in Israel, where, you guessed it, the cafe is kosher! I miss those inexpensive meals of salmon, green beans, and french fries ... ah, those were the days.

Now, my only peace of mind comes from being able to use the IKEA Cookbook to craft some delicious nosh that, honestly, you'd never find in their cafes anyway.

But, to be honest, this isn't necessarily a cookbook. It's more of a "how to have an amazing kitchen and respect the planet, yourself, and your kitchen" book. The tips in this tome are impressive, thoughtful, and universal.


The bummer is that it seems this book -- Our Food, Naturally -- is no longer available, and for that, I apologize to you, because you're missing out. The photography just jumps off the page at you, too.


And now? On to the recipe simply called ...

"Muffins"

Ingredients
7 oz roasted yams
1 cup soft butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup strained yogurt 10%
1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz coarsely grated apple with peel
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs, whisked
melted butter for the cups

Directions
Put the yam flesh, butter, and yogurt into a food processor and blend. Put the mixture in a bowl and sieve in the flour and baking powder. Mix together and whisk the grated apple, sugar, and eggs into the dough. Divide the muffin mixture into cups (roughly 1/2 cup) greased with a little melted butter. Fill with mixture to 1/2 inch from the edge. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until they feel firm and are golden on top.

Notes:
  • I ended up roasting two medium-sized sweet potatoes, which was actually enough to double the recipe. So one medium sweet potato should do the trick. 
  • I used Greek yogurt in this recipe. 
  • For the flour, I used Cup4Cup as a gluten-free replacement. 
  • I very rarely mix ingredients separately, because I'm a lazy cook. I just there everything into the KitchenAid mixer and let the whisk attachment do the rest. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in NYC: This City Isn't What I Used to Be

Being back in NYC for the first time in ... something like five years, but really we'll say six years because the truth is the last time I was here I was in a hotel at JFK passing through on my way to Israel, feels like a dream.

Six years ago I was living in New Jersey and commuting in to NYC every day to attend NYU, where I was pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic Studies and Jewish Education. It feels like a million years ago, honestly. And being back here is just surreal. I forgot what life was like "in the city" and I'm only here for 24 hours for work.

It's possible that my entire experience is probably grumpily painted by the fact that my flight was delayed twice and ended up getting in more than three hours later than anticipated. It's also probable that the fact that I arrived in the city close to 10 pm and nearly every kosher restaurant was closed or closing plays into my annoyance at the city. And then when the food I did order showed up it was breaded instead of gluten free, leaving me food-less and hungry after being in airports all day with nothing by nuts and hardboiled eggs.

But I digress.

The noise, the hectic bustle of these streets is something I'd forgot about. Or, it's possible, the noise is less aggressive down south near NYU where I spent most of my time. Up here, near Times Square where I stayed, it was an overnight constant of car horns and garbage trucks and police cars and music. This morning around 5 a.m. it was jackhammers and yelling. And I heard it all as if it were happening next to me in bed ... from the 15th floor of my hotel.

Awake, showered, hopeful, I stepped outside into the swamp. I don't mind an 80 degree day or a 100 degree day, as long as it isn't humid. I don't do humidity. I don't do sweating and sticky grossness. It's one of the reasons I truly love living in Denver. I walked a few blocks, shoving my way through vendors attempting to get people onto bus tours and to shows they don't want to see, and it was funny because not a single one of them even attempted to talk to me. Suitcase in tow, is there something about me that says, "I'm not a tourist"? Something determined or focused on my face?

I'm seriously narrating to myself as I walk. All of this. Then I hit this place called Greggory's Coffee, and here I sit, waiting for a 2:30 pm meeting that was supposed to be a noon meeting. And then off to the airport to fly back home. But this time? I'm flying out of JFK and not the ramshackle, looks-like-it-was-set-up-overnight-in-a-mad-dash LGA.

I don't know if/when I'll be back in NYC. Something about the hecticness of the city makes my social anxiety activate. My typically confident and determined personality feels confused, rushed, out of sorts. There's something about the noise and the dirt and the people ...

I didn't used to be like this. I can't imagine brining kids into the city. I'd fall apart.

Honestly? I can't wait to get back to Denver. It's clean, crisp, quiet(er). I've aged, obviously. I've gotten older. I'm only 33, but feeling this way about a city I once thought would be my long-term home makes me feel ancient.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Unexpected Mother and Interactions with Unsolicited Emails

Yesterday, while digging through the bucket of unsolicited emails I get en masse on a daily basis, one caught my eye and I actually replied. I don't know how I ended up on the email list, and I don't know why I responded, but it went something like this:


It's one of those emails that looks like it's personal, straight to the end user, but it's SPAM, we all know it. I knew it, too. But, tired, sick for the past few weeks, coughing since October, overwhelmed by life and bills and everything else, I hit REPLY. I wrote this:


I wrote this, mind you, while sitting in solitude on the toilet. During the day when the kids were in daycare because, let's be honest, when the kids are home, Little T is crawling around my ankles and Asher is bringing dozens of toys into the loo to play with while I attempt to do my business.

The original sender, Kathryn, sent back an email that was pretty generic, empathizing with my comments and fears. I had hoped for something more. I'm not sure what, but something.

Part of me thought that by putting my words out into the universe to some random, unsolicited email that some magic peace or calming reality would hit me.

It didn't.

Now I just want a bowl of ice cream.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Perfect for Pesach Cookbook

The first time I ever really observed Pesach in a remotely legit way was in 2008 when I was living in a shoebox in Buena Park in Chicago. I was going to Anshe Emet and the rabbi talked me into one of my most memorable seders ever (read about the seder here), and I was there until 2 a.m. It was also the first time I ever made fish (no kidding) in my life, and I made this recipe for Sephardic Spicy Fish. I made it with salmon, and it was amazing.

I continue to make this recipe every Pesach, as a reminder of that fateful Pesach, just weeks after I first set foot in an Orthodox shul and committed myself to converting under Orthodox auspices. I can't believe that was nine years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago. It's also amazing that the very next year I was in Florida celebrating Pesach in the most stereotypical way possible in a gated community with a family that I so loved (my ex-husband's). After that, my Pesach experiences were sort of here, there, and quite literally everywhere:
  • 2008: Chicago
  • 2009: Florida
  • 2010: Florida
  • 2011: Monsey, NY
  • 2012: Denver
  • 2013: England
  • 2014: Israel
  • 2015: Denver
  • 2016: Denver
  • 2017: Denver ... just the two of us!
I've spent Pesach on several continents with so many different families. This year? It'll be just the two of us for the seders, with kids fast asleep. It'll be fun, but quiet, but fun, but quiet. I was racking my brain as to what to make, honestly for the entire week, because in my mind, I just think: quinoa and vegetables. Quinoa bake. Spaghetti Squash bake. Bake all the things! But then ... then I got this cookbook for review: Perfect for Pesach: Passover recipes you'll want to make all year by Naomi Nachman. 


I'm not even kidding you ... the moment I got this (its squishy cover and all) and got a few pages in, I went out and bought a crepe pan. Crepes, people. Crepes on Pesach. I've never made a crepe in my life, but I saw Naomi's recipe for Passover egg rolls using said crepes, and I was all like ...


You can bet that there will be an evening of delicious Asian cuisine, including these Mock Sesame Noodles (genius!). 



Do you know why you need this cookbook? Here's a list of some of the recipes that will blow your mind: 
  • Fish 'n' Chips
  • Sweet & Sour Tilapia
  • Quinoa Granola
  • Ricotta Pancakes
  • Vanilla Cupcakes (with pudding!)
  • Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze
  • ... and more.
Seriously, folks, I'm using only one cookbook this Pesach. Perfect for Pesach Because it has pictures with every recipe, and that's my kind of cookbook. And I'm a lazy cook when it comes to Pesach. I don't want to stress, and I want to use fresh ingredients and as few ingredients as possible to guarantee quick, tasty food. 

When your kids are at home all week, who has time for elaborate substitutions and a dozen ingredients just to make one dish? Not me. That's who.

Will you be picking up this Passover cookbook? You should. You really, really must. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Abeles & Heymann Delicious, All-Natural Hot Dogs

There's an ongoing debate by people on the interwebs about my family's weird dietary habits. Are we vegetarians? Pescatarians? Neither? What are those Gordon-Bennetts doing with food!? Let's bullet point this:

  • Our kitchen is dairy/pescatarian. We like fish, so we eat fish. And vegetables. 
  • We have a Rubbermaid tub full of meat utensils and dishes for Thanksgiving cooking and for the very rare occasion that we decide to make meat. This happens once ever six months at most, usually because we want to make Chicken Soup. 
  • We will eat at the local kosher deli, and we will eat meat there if we feel like it, and by meat I usually mean chicken. 
  • On Shabbat and holidays, we will eat meat out (again, chicken usually) out when invited because it's hard to say "can you make me a gluten-free, vegetarian option please?"
  • I, Chaviva, am gluten free (Celiac) and personally am avoiding soy products like tofu and tempeh, but the rest of the family enjoys them. 
Okay, I think that's everything. Now, that being said, every now and again I do get a serious hankering for meat and the truth is that I'm too lazy to schlep out the meat tub to make something and am too cheap to go to the deli and get something. 

Yumtimes in the USA!
Enter Abeles & Heymann, "makers of award-winning premium kosher hot dogs and deli." I was contacted by their PR department for a free sample, and I jumped at the chance because I can't do veggie dogs (soy, and often wheat) and their offerings are nitrate-free, all beef, and "have no fillers, are gluten-free, Kosher, and Kosher for Passover."


Asher's all like "This one's for me, right?"
Why is this a solution to my cheap/lazy style when I'm craving meat? Because I honestly just bust open a package and eat it straight! Yes, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my family got Hickory Farms and would devour a box in no time at all. If it wasn't Hickory Farms it was Oscar Meyer hot dogs and man alive those things were mystery meat to the max.

But these hot dogs? They're delicious, like nothing else on the market because they taste pure and completely natural, and that's all the reason you need to find A&H and some spicy mustard and get noshing. And with Passover right around the corner, it's nice to have something tasty, healthy, and easy in your corner because all of the processed junk on the market at Passover is the absolute worst.

A&H also just unveiled new branding that is super sleek and classic.
Have you tried A&H meats? What do you think? Do you have a favorite? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Coping with Weaning at 9 Months Old

I like to think I've been blessed by the fact that both of my children love food. Like, really love food. For both of my kids, four months was sort of the magic point where they both demanded solids.

Little T was pounding a vegetarian calzone last night for dinner, putting back more than my 3 year old, even. Here's the picture to prove it:


Did I mention that she's only 9 months old? Give this girl some cucumbers, yogurt, banana, really anything, and watch it disappear. Quickly.

Now, with Asher, around a year he was pretty over breastfeeding, but he'd still nurse sporadically -- especially at night -- until he was 18 months old. He conveniently quit around the time that Mr. T returned to the U.S. after his 10-month stint abroad.

But Little T? Sigh. Or hurrah! I'm not sure. She's only 9 months old, but her interest in breastfeeding has really gone the way of the Do Do over the past month. She doesn't even love nursing at night, preferring a bottle instead because she can pound that back faster or better than nursing. During the day, I can't get her to nurse to save my life. She's just over it. Totally and utterly over it. She takes a bottle like she's came out of the womb with one in her tiny little paws.

I'm having really mixed feelings about it all. I decided last week, after spending several days at the Redemption Retreat and breaking away to pump pretty much nothing in vain that I'm done pumping because A) it's not producing much for the stress it causes and B) Little T is happy with her bottle o' formula. I haven't pumped in nearly a week, and I'm not suffering much because of it. A few moments of being a bit over full and convincing Little T it's' the right thing to do to help Mommy, but usually only in the middle of the night when she doesn't know any better, and even then she takes a bottle afterward to supplement.

Sigh.

On the one hand, yay I have my body back! On the other hand, being in the position where I'm not entirely keen on having more kids, is this it? Last night, in the middle of the night while I lay in bed with Little T nestled closely nursing to relieve some pain and then going to Tatty for a bottle afterward, I thought to myself, "Is this it? Is this the absolute last time?"

It can take weeks for a mother's milk supply to dry up. There are things you can do to usher the process along, like sage tea and putting cabbage leaves in your bra, but I don't really want to walk around smelling like Holishkas. So I'm toughing it out. Not pumping. Pleading with Little T when I need to, and waiting to be all dried up.

And Little T? She's happy, healthy, and full of all the food, and that's what matters the most.

Devouring an ice cream cone. 



Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: The Shabbos Party Box!

Awhile back, I was contacted about reviewing a new product for families that love Shabbat but might struggle with Shabbat activities and snacks for their children. This product is a "box of the month" called the Shabbos Party Box! And, before I even start my review, let me just say that they're giving away some boxes, so pop over to their website and enter to win one!


Now to the review. I really like the concept of the box, but I don't know that it's something that I'll buy into long term because I wasn't super jazzed with the contents. It definitely has plenty of nosh and activities for the price, but the sugar-coated goodies aren't really something that we go for in our family. We don't do the "Shabbat cereal" or "you can have brownies for breakfast because it's Shabbat" philosophy, so maybe this box isn't for us.


Our box came with

  • Gummies
  • Mentos (the fresh maker!)
  • Sour sticks
  • A flipstick
  • Three cards with activities/fun for Shabbat
  • Rally Up (a game)
  • A magnet
Where was the gift for mom!? 

Okay, now that I think back on this, Little T does love chewing on the Lipstick, and Asher actually uses Rally Up as "peanut butter and jelly" (don't ask) for his babies. I felt bad that I just chucked the three containers of candy, however. Why not something healthy? Or even moderately healthy? Like a bag of veggie chips, natural gummies, or something that doesn't have a million ingredients? That's all I'm saying here. 

Overall, this just isn't for us. I like the idea, and I know it'll work for many people, but I don't think it'll ever be on our Shabbat "to do" list. 

Have you seen this box? Do you think you'd buy it for your family? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ask Chaviva Anything: Of Marriage and Mr. T

It's been awhile since I responded to some of the Ask Chaviva Anything questions, so I thought I'd go through and answer a bunch in one quick (hopefully) post. This round of questions is devoted to marriage and family life, in honor of celebration FOUR YEARS of marriage to Mr. T on February 20th.



Ready? Let's roll.

Did you go through the shidduch process with Mr. T?

For those of you not in the know, the shidduch process is a matchmaking process, wherein you rely on a third party to find a suitable, meaningful marriage match. The answer to this is yes! I actually used a website called Saw You at Sinai, wherein there are matchmakers around the world who look through your profile and answers to questions to find you a match. Then they pair you up with people and both sides get the opportunity to deny/accept the potential opportunity to talk or meet. I'd been on SYAS for months, and I can't even begin to tell you how many men declined the opportunity to even talk to me. As a divorced convert, I wasn't such an attractive match, it seems. I tried to be really open and not picky, so I accepted several potential matches, but the first one that stuck was Mr. T. His profile said he was divorced with a kid and was a smoker, but something about his photos and profile sang to me. Shortly after we met, he quit smoking cold turkey (I have asthma, so this was a deal breaker), and the rest is history. 

What / when will you tell your children about your first marriage?

Honestly, I don't know that I'll tell them anything about it. However, if it comes up, or they ask, or they're getting toward the age of marrying, I'll tell them about it, because I believe it provides a valuable lesson about expectations and when to follow your heart and when to follow your gut. My first marriage and that entire relationship is an example of so many things, primary among them happiness, what that looks like, and what you're willing to do in pursuit of it. 

When are you returning home, permanently?

Home is where the heart is. My heart is currently in Denver. If you're asking when we're going to return to Israel, the answer to that is when we have enough money and stability to get by for 2-3 years without worry. It is taking longer than we anticipated for that to happen. I refuse to put my children in the position of "living in the red" and struggling from paycheck to paycheck. It might be the Israeli way, but it's not the way I want to live my life. 

You seem to be having a rough time of it lately, between 2 kids & your job. Do you feel things would have been easier had you stayed in Israel? Or, despite the difficulties, is it still easier in the US?

No. Life would have been rougher had we stayed in Israel. Period. Also, since this questions was asked, I quit my job, and I'm finding that ONE THING that will make me happy, so I'm moving in the direction of finding my happy/stable/productive place.

Do you ever find yourself upset still at how hard it was for your husband to reimmigrate to the USA?

Absolutely, yes. Especially as Little T gets closer and closer to the age Asher was when Mr. T left, I start to see milestones that he missed, and it breaks my heart that he missed those opportunities with Asher, but it also makes me so happy that he gets to experience those with our daughter. 

Next up: Questions About Conversion! Stay tuned ... 



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Once Upon a Time, I Was Going to be Something

Eleven years ago, I was poised to be a Judaic studies scholar. It was my dream, and I was willing to do just about anything to make it happen. After graduating with my bachelor of journalism, I went to The Washington Post for an internship after which I got hired on as a full-time employee. I was miserable in DC, and I started working on chasing my real dream: a master's in Judaic studies followed by a PhD followed by a prolific career as an academic, professor, and writer.

Instead, I ended up moving to Chicago, living with a guy I thought was my forever, working for a Nobel-prize-winning economist, and only a year later heading to graduate school. Just a few years after that I was married, divorced, and quitting a program at NYU where I was attempting a second and third master's degree.

Now? Well, life is different now. I don't have time for books or papers or pursuing all those fascinating topics that were going to keep me happy and sane and on the chase. So what did my dreams look like? This. And, I'll point out, I was going to be the scholar to blow up the Ulysses S. Grant history, not Jonathan Sarna. When I interviewed at Brandeis in 2009/10, I mentioned the fascinating issue to Professor Sarna. Then, in 2012 he released his book.

Coulda been me. Here's a letter I sent with my application to the University of Chicago. Maybe, someday, I'll get back on this track.
Does the world really need another Jewish studies scholar? There are truckloads of academics in pursuit of answers from the Holocaust or the perplexing makeup of American Jewry and the Diaspora. But what about the uncharted grounds of Jewish history and thought? What about, for example, Ulysses S. Grant and his expulsion of the Jews in 1862? A piece of U.S. history you won’t likely find in most history books, this is just one of the complicated, uncultivated avenues on which I plan to tread in pursuit of a career in Jewish studies. 
During my junior year, while pursuing a journalism degree and minor in Judaic studies, I took an ethnopolitical conflict class – nicknamed the “genocide class” – which I was told by those who had taken the course that it would either break me down or change my course of study. The class, taught by Prof. Patrice McMahon, was centered on a single ethnic conflict research paper written in three parts throughout the semester. I knew instantly that I would research Grant’s infamous action, which I had heard about from a rabbi visiting my synagogue as part of the celebration of 350 years of Judaism in America. Unfortunately, the rabbi couldn’t tell me much about the event, thus piquing my interest. 
I spent weeks in the library scouring the school’s collection of Civil War, Grant and Jewish histories. It turned out that few people had heard about the incident and even fewer had written extensively on the topic. It was clear that I had my work cut out for me, which only wrapped me up more in the research. My research focused on what motivated Grant to issue the order, including the effects of war, economics and other generals on his decision. My research turned up a rabbi and professor, both of whom had detailed accounts and assessments of the incident. My shock of the unexplored event turned into excitement. Could I chart a new path or cover new ground on an anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic act sanctioned by the U.S. government? I set out to advance the study of General Order No. 11. 
The result of my semester-long effort was a comprehensive look at what led Grant to issue the antiSemitic order in a paper, “Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews: A Mighty Order and a Blemish on U.S. history.” At the end of the semester, in presenting the research to classmates, the expression of surprise on the faces of the 30 or so students was the most rewarding aspect of the venture. When detailing this seemingly veiled incident with others, friends were hesitant to believe and fellow scholars were shocked to know they were unaware of such a significant instance of antiSemitism in U.S. history. It was then that I staked my claim as a scholar, researcher and educator. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Passion … is a powerful spring.”

I hope to expand my undergraduate research on Grant to explore aspects of the incident beyond the motive. Few have focused on the lasting effects of the order or how Grant managed to carry the Jewish vote in both of his bids for president. Additionally, I would like to explore how such a significant event has managed to go unmentioned in textbooks and whether similar orders were issued during the Civil War or during other U.S.-inclusive wars. In a way, Grant has helped me find my raison d’etre.
But my interests reach much further than Grant and U.S. Jewry. My passion for Jewish studies spans American-Jewish fiction and authors such as Tova Mirvis, Jonathan Safran Foer and Cynthia Ozick; biblical Judaism; Jewish printing of the Middle Ages; and Jewish, Christian and Muslim relations. I hope to explore Rashi, his daughters, and whether his encouragement of their Talmud study was widely explored or purely rejected. I’m also fascinated with Emma Lazarus, whose outward effort to connect to the Jewish people seems hypocritical and insincere; I’m drawn to her understanding of Jewishness. Perhaps the most interesting avenue of research I’ve pursued and hope to look at further involves Jewish television and the rise of the sitcom, which spanned “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Bonanza.” 
My passion for Jewish languages has made me desperate to learn Ladino in order to study the Jews of Salonika, which I know so little about and yet am constantly reading about. My knowledge of Hebrew is limited, having taken only one semester of biblical Hebrew with Prof. Stephen Burnett late in my undergrad. Although my undergraduate university lacked regular Hebrew courses, my liturgical Hebrew is strong, and I am constantly working toward a fluent understanding of Modern Hebrew, in addition to biblical Hebrew.

I have to stress that this field of study is as much an academic endeavor as it is personal. The pursuit of a master’s degree will serve as another spring on a path to teaching, writing and researching, whether through a PhD and professoring or, as my rabbi has suggested, through rabbinical school. My work with Grant and the Jews proved to me that there are a bounty of uncultivated avenues in Jewish studies begging to be examined and shared by curious, burgeoning scholars such as myself.

The University of Chicago has a history and reputation of excellence, brought forth by the presence of passionate scholars – both students and professors – who are searching for answers to some of history’s and society’s most significant puzzles. While researching the scholars of the Committee on Jewish Studies, I found professors who I know will be beneficial to work and study with. I only hope that my passion for Judaic studies is apparent and that I can continue my studies and work toward a career in teaching Jewish history, religion and philosophy with the help of the Jewish Studies department at the University of Chicago.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Quit My Job, and I Feel Great

Those of you who have been following this blog for the past 11 years of its existence know that I've gone through a bajillion life changes, and they often happen in quick spurts of anxiety and chaos all at once.

Well, welcome to another installment of "What did Chaviva do now?" I keep wavering between "This is going to be awesome" and "This is going to make me vomit." It's an epic place to be.

I'm happy to say that every job I've ever left, with the exception of two, I've left on my own free will and at my own time. The two jobs that this didn't happen with were soft "letting go" situations and both happened after I moved to Israel and the two Denver companies I was working for decided they needed people closer to home to make things work (thanks Marissa Meyer). Every other job I've ever had I left. I quit. I walked away Most of the time, I leave a job because I grow impatient or bored.

This time? I left a job because I was stressed, depressed, and felt terribly devalued. No job is worth those feelings.

So what now? Well, I've got three part-time gigs I'm juggling, and thanks to a close friend who lit a fire under me, I'm going to start developing my own company. And this time, for one in my life, I'm going to start charging what I'm worth. I have this problem where I just want to make brands amazing, so I'll take whatever they pay me to get the chance to make them awesome. No more, folks. I'm a pro, I've been doing this for a very long time, and I'm really, really good at what I do. If I continue to devalue myself, my clients will, too. If I say it's $100 or $150/hour, you better bet I'm going to work my tuches off during that hour and you're going to shine because of it.

Onward. Upward. It's time for me to take the reins of my destiny instead of someone else's. I'm ready to get back to where I was all those years ago where Chaviva was the brand, where my expertise was sought after, where I was the pro on panels. That's the person I am.

Stay tuned for a website geared toward my marketing prowess, a new logo and name, and more. Exciting times ahead, folks!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Doing All the Things and More

Asher's upsherin was a success! He's a super handsome kid with short hair.

Ah where to begin. Here are some random things that I'm dealing with/coping with/going through.

  • At present, I'm working one FT job and three PT jobs/projects. How do I have time for all the things? I don't. Will there be a breaking point? Probably. Do I need all the jobs? Yes. Life is expensive. Kids are expensive. My health insurance can't be beat. Am I tired? Very. Do I need a break? Yes. Do I need a vacation? Yes. And it needs to involve me not having my phone with me. 
  • I discovered the only thing wrong with Colorado when I was in California for a few days for work. That thing is elevation's effect on my mommy responsibilities. You see, I manage to pump a lot more milk at lower elevations than here. We're talking triple the amount. I'm deeply annoyed by this fact and don't know how much more liquid I can possibly consume. 
  • Both of my kids are uniquely spirited. I'm baffled and amazed and blown away every day at how loving, kind, and nurturing they are. Was I like that at a child? I don't know. I don't think so. But if my son says, "Mommy, you's a beautiful lady" one more time my heart will explode with Asher-shaped confetti. 
  • I like working in an office with people, especially super intelligent and passionate people. But I also find it incredibly exhausting to be surrounded by people all day, which is funny, because I prefer to work from coffee shops. 
  • The smell of bacon has been really, really appealing to me lately. I don't know why. I always hated bacon as a child. Thus, tonight we're making (tofu) BLTs for dinner. 
  • My greatest struggle these days as a Jew is keeping kosher. Not the actual act of it, but the attraction of fast food and the food of my childhood. I think it has to do with stress, because I'm a serious stress eater. When I'm stressed, I want to eat, a lot, and the more comforting the better. So I drive past places like Chick-Fil-A and McDonalds and Taco Bell and think about all the food I used to gorge on back in the day. Most of it I couldn't eat now anyway on account of me being gluten free, but the stuff I could eat, I could. Driving past those places every day gives my heart an ache and my "what if" brain a serious think. I think it's also really hard living in a place where you really aren't jazzed with the kosher options (all two of them, unless you're counting ice cream, in which case there's like five). 
  • I've been binge watching the show Justified. It's changed my language back to the language of my people (my people hailing from France and then Virginia and then Tennessee and then Missouri). 
Oh life. What's new with you? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Happy Third Birthday, My Asher.

This week's parshah (Torah portion) is Vayechi, and it involves Yaakov (Jacob) blessing his sons, the 12 tribes of Israel, of which Asher is one. As Yaakov prepares to die, he provides a unique blessing for each of the tribes, assigning the tribe of Asher the role of olive growers. The olive branch symbolizes peace, and, if anything, my beautiful boy is a peace maker. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone is happy and okay, and he'll bend over backwards to help his little sister or his friends, just to put a smile on their face.

What is the significance here? Well, Sunday is Asher Yitzhak's Hebrew birthday, marking his third birthday and his entrance into Jewish responsibility. I can't believe he's already three, but I'm so excited to see the little man he'll grow into.  He's a stubborn monkey, still refusing to even think about starting to use the potty, but his imagination astounds me with froggies stuck in trees and bunnies needing help and fires popping up everywhere that need to be put out. This morning he used my sleep mask and a bag of monster bowling pins as a wrecking ball to knock down the infestation of ... pineapples. Yes, there were pineapples. Everywhere!

Last night, after the baby was in bed and Mr. T and his parents had headed out for haircuts and errands, I popped in to check on him to see if he was asleep yet. He was awake, so I went in to give him kisses and say the shema. I squished him and told him I was flattening him like a pancake because I was hungry! He giggled and squirmed and smiled and said, "Mommy, can you stay here forever?"



For all of the moments that he makes me want to pull my hair out, moments like that make me both happy and sad. Happy that my boy is so beautiful and happy and healthy and mine, but sad that I don't have more time or energy to devote to him. 

"Mommy has work to do, my love, but I'll see you in the morning," I responded. As I went to close the door, he said, "I love you Mommy" and blew me a kiss. 

These are the days. 

Before we left the house this morning, Asher gave me a light stick turned necklace and asked me to put it on. "You're a beautiful lady!" he said. 

Oh my boy, I'll eat you up, I love you so. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!


Ah, another year has come and gone, and here we meet again. I started this blog almost 11 years ago, and for the past few years, things have been quiet and slow. I'm expecting some interesting changes in the near future, which hopefully will allow me a bit more time to devote to this beloved blog (beloved by me), because it has always been a happy place for me. 



I started the year out right by making a wholesome breakfast for the family, then I made some gluten-free banana nut muffins, did the dishes, started some laundry, and then I was basically exhausted. Whew! Here's to tiny children getting older and me getting some energy back? That's a thing, right? 

What are you hoping for in 2017?