Thursday, August 29, 2013

From Webb City to the Gush

I'm such a weirdo. This absolutely made my day. Yes, a scale that measures in kilograms made my day. Why? I'll tell you why.

Mr. T and I went to the doctor to go over some blood test results as well as to discuss my ultrasound from last week. The baby is great ("Nothing spectacular," says the doctor) and growing at the right rate ("But why nothing spectacular," asks Mr. T) according to all of the measurements so far ("You don't want spectacular!" the doctor says with a smile). After getting referrals for a 32-week ultrasound and a dietician (if I happen to need it) and the three-hour glucose test (which, hopefully will come back negative for gestational diabetes so I can rip up the dietician referral), I decided to hop on the scale since I neglected to make an August appointment with the nurse to check my weight and all of that good and fun stuff.

Of course, I made Mr. T turn around (he went to the bathroom) and started moving the scale around to detect my weight. As I landed on the same figure (less one pound or 1/2 a kilo) that I had in July when I weighed in (huzzah!), I noticed -- next to the brand name of the scale -- ", MO U.S.A." so I moved the weights a bit and bam!

Webb City, MO U.S.A.

You guys, I practically squeeeed with joy at this. I know, I sound like a nutcase, but you have to understand: Webb City was right down the road from where I grew up in Joplin. Webb City was where I spent my summers going to the drive-in movie theater. Webb City was like a mini-vacation from Joplin.
From 1921 E. 33rd Street to the Drive-In Movie Theater!

[And, please note my devastation as I just discovered that the movie theater was torn down to build a Walmart Supercenter ... sigh ... ]

Seeing a little piece of "home" from so long ago in a medical center in Efrat, Israel is like ... wow it's a trip for me. A real trip. It makes me wonder how a scale made in Webb City (in kilograms at that) made it all the way to the Gush of Eretz Yisrael.

It really is a small world after all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Agunot in the Age of Facebook

I just saw something on my Facebook timeline, and for the first time in my Jewish life it made me stop and wonder about the situation of the agunah and particularly what it means in this new age of technology and the ability to publicly shame someone.

An agunah is a Jewish woman whose husband has not granted her a get, or ritual divorce. A lot of times, a civil divorce has taken place but a religious divorce has not. For a religious Jewish woman, this means she is bound to that man until he grants her the get. He can remarry, and she can't. She's in a horrible status of limbo that there isn't always much to do about other than fight, fight, and fight some more in beth din (religious court) to pressure the man into just letting her go.

The reasons for not granting a get are boundless, and most of the time childish and trivial. It's a power play by men who simply want to be in control of a situation they've lost control of. It's both pathetic and sad.

There are so many women who are living as agunot. Back in the olden days, especially when men started leaving their wives and immigrating here there and everywhere, the Yiddish newspapers would post their photos, names, and where they ditched their wife in the hopes that locals would turn them in to the local religious courts so they'd do the right thing.

Nowadays, it seems, people are turning to other resources, like Facebook and website building to make things happen. On Facebook I spotted Set Gital Free, which is a website made by friends of Gital Dodelson. Her (civil) ex-husband Avrohom Meir Weiss (of the Artscroll Weisses) refuses to grant a get unless all of his demands (of money, visitation with their small child, etc) are met.

The site includes information about Weiss's family, a timeline of events (these people had a wedding night baby, folks, and separated shortly after the child was born, which is a common thing in religious communities, believe it or not), and information about how you can make a difference.

I don't think I'm the kind of person to pick up the phone and berate the family of some idiot who can't man up and let a woman go, but I'm not about to go campaigning on Facebook either. The fact that I'm even blogging about it has me a little perplexed.

I guess, in a way, I think it's interesting how we've gone from the Yiddish edition of the Forward's "Gallery of Vanished Husbands" to Facebook page and website please to free someone. I think it's socially and psychologically fascinating, and I'm curious whether it has any pull or works.

I guess, in a way, I'm helping the "cause" by posting something here. I can't imagine being stuck in this kind of situation, and I thank haShem every day that I didn't have kids with my ex and that our divorce (by and large) was incredibly smooth (I asked for basically nothing, I left with basically nothing). I've never understood the type of divorce where you ask and torture and try to emotionally and financially ruin someone. When I got divorced, I just wanted to be done with it -- all the money in the world couldn't have made me feel any better about the decision, even when I left essentially broke.

It's all quite baffling. Sad. And baffling.

If you want to help support the cause of agunot, check out the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot

Monday, August 26, 2013

Musings of the Pregnant Lady

Mr. T makes a mean salad. I'm one happy (and full) pregnant lady.

While Miley Cyrus was busy getting down and dirty on stage at the VMAs (goodbye childhood), I was fast asleep (or something like it) preparing for the all-important glucose test to find out if Little Z has come with the fun accessory of gestational diabetes (cross your fingers that it's a no!). Luckily, the Israeli system has a overly sugary lemonade-style drink, which outdoes the disgusting, throat-burning orange soda stylings of the U.S. healthcare system's diabetic testing process.

The hour that I was sitting idle waiting for jitters to set in (they didn't), and without an iPad (had to sell it to pay the rent), I spent people watching. Efrat, where the medical center is, is across the main highway that runs through this region, and is very friendly to the English-speaking community. It's interesting how clearly American some folks are, but how they can turn their Hebrew off and on like a switch (with a pretty impressive accent, too).

I also felt reassured that babies seem to know when there's a pregnant woman nearby. I swear babies look at me like they know something, like they have a direct line into my uterus and see what's going on. Have you ever had a baby look into your soul? Yeah, I feel like that regularly.

Last week we went for the "big scan" where they check for organs and limb length and heart development. Unfortunately we didn't land many good pictures because Little Z was moving around like a maniac (same during the first ultrasound), and I appear to have an anterior placenta, meaning that it's both difficult to feel much movement at this point and to get clear pictures of the baby without forcing it to move (which, by the way, the guy did and I've been sore in the tummy ever since). The most beautiful things we experienced with Little Z were seeing the spine and ribs and hearing the heartbeat. We did get one good picture, in which Little Z looks just like a lot like Mr. T and, it appears, is holding a microphone and doing karaoke in-utero (that's my kid ... but it's probably the fist).

As I approach my 25th week, the flutter of insane "OMG AM I READY!?" thoughts are whipping up a storm. If it's a boy can I handle the bris? (We went to a friend's baby's bris last week and that little wail kills me every time.) If it's a girl can I handle the possibility that she's going to be as bratty and as much of a pain in the tuches as I was?

What do I need when the baby comes home? Wait a second, I have to choose a hospital? Will a larger apartment appear so that we don't have to eventually put a new baby in a room with a 10 year old who has had his own space his whole life? A birthing plan? Do I need a doula (midwife)? Do I know enough about breastfeeding and diaper-changing and not getting any sleep ever for the rest of my life (not that I get much now anyway)?

And then, today, while sitting in a coffee shop working, Little Z started acting like a mad person flipping or hopping or doing a jig of some sort ... I felt bumps and lumps and for nearly a minute all the insanity of glucose tests and cloth versus regular diapers and the reality of never sleeping ever again drifted away.

There's a baby in there. That's weird. Have you ever considered how absolutely bizarre and strange it is that a human being can grow another human being? I mean, that's miraculous, folks. It's weird, but miraculous. And for someone like me -- who for the entire extent of my first marriage didn't want to have kids because things weren't good and then swore off children -- the fact that I got pregnant so quickly after getting married and after being off birth control for a millisecond after 12 years of being actively on the pill ... I mean ... how does that happen?

Sometimes, I'm able to marvel at the life I lead. It's nothing glamorous. It's nothing special. I'm light years away from the free and single New York City-dwelling journalist superstar I thought I'd be 10 years ago.

Last night, before drifting off to sleep (and before Miley's crazy teddybear-inspired hump fest), I checked my social streams to find one of my former copy editors, who I managed what feels like ages ago, tweeting and instagramming from the VMAs as an editor at Mashable. For all intents and purposes, he's leading the life I dreamed for myself so long ago.

And yet, here I am, going through the motions of a first-time mommy, anxiety about nesting and doing the right thing and raising kids right in tow.

HaShem has a funny way of taking us through life. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Note: If you don't have the app Timehop, you should get it. Every day I wake up and look at my life a year ago, two years ago, and even five or six years ago. Not everyone is nearly as social as I am online, of course, but it's quite the interesting adventure. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shanah Rishona Guilt

Gluten-free enchiladas, granola bars for Mr. T, gluten-free pizza and fries,
pasta with sautéed spinach, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. 

One of the toughest things about having a full-time job, being pregnant and energy-less part of the time, and having a busy and awesomely ravenous husband is figuring out the proper balance to my day so that Mr. T doesn't end up eating pita and hummus for dinner and I don't end up gorging at one meal and feeling sick/exhausted the rest of the day.

After the first trimester, where I spent a lot of time sleeping and laying about (which I could do because I was under employed), I got a boost of energy and appetite -- for about two weeks. Yes, there were two glorious weeks where I was a machine from dawn until dusk and was able to eat just about every last bit of what I craved.

Those two weeks were short lived and a huge tease.

Now my energy levels wane from day to day. Some days I am more than eager to get up at 6:30 a.m. when Mr. T's alarm goes off and work all day and stay up late watching TV and having a nice homemade dinner. Other days, I pull myself out of bed at 9:30 a.m. and am crashing around 6 p.m.

So what's the big deal? I'm rocking a lot of "shanah rishonah guilt." What, you ask is this phenomenon? Shanah rishonah is how Jews refer to the first year of marriage (it literally means first year). For religious Jews, this first year means you're like a king and queen, you can hand out brachot (blessings) and instead of dipping your challah in salt you dip it in honey so everything will be sweet.

For very religious Jews -- who often don't date long before marriage and definitely don't live together -- it's also the chance to really spend time getting to know the other person, and the truth is that for Mr. T and I, it's been very much "getting to know you, getting to know all about you!"

Before we got married, I'd cooked for him a few times, and he cooked for me a few times, but we never shared a bathroom or bedroom or closet or space. We've been incredibly blessed that the transition has been smooth -- he's very easy going when I rearrange the entire kitchen or move things around in the closet. There are bigger fish to fry, as it goes.

But for me, there's still that feeling of needing to perform. I might work full-time now, but I'm home all day sitting at a desk near the kitchen, which makes me feel like I should be able to put up a four-course meal every night when Mr. T comes home from a day of hard-labor (he is an electrician after all). I also feel the need to make sure he's got healthy and filling lunches to schlep in every day to work. The guilt I feel when he comes home and I'm still tapping away working is probably unnecessary (he's even said it's unnecessary), but I know that the first year sets you up for life.

And with a tiny alien growing inside me, I have to wonder: What are things going to look like in six months when husband's working full-time, I'm working, baby is chilling out with me at home ...? And what about Erev Shabbat (Friday) when I basically stand up in the kitchen cooking from the moment I wake up until Shabbat comes in?

The truth is, I could probably take a huge load off of myself by not insisting on having an adventurous kitchen and palette. We have a vegetarian home, meaning that it's a constant battle to find protein-packed options for my most ravenous Mr. T (who can eat and eat and not gain a pound). So between work tasks, I'm scanning the web for gluten-free black bean burger recipes and ways to cook spaghetti squash and tips on using tofu that doesn't involve stir-fry (we over did it a few months ago). I don't like to replicate dishes too much, because I don't want to bore myself or the husband (or iBoy when he's around).

So what do you do? How do you rejigger things when your energy is up or down to keep things running at home? How do you fight that relationship-performing guilt?