Finding myself in the Middle East

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mean Girls

"How was gan today, sweetheart?"

"Ima, what did you bring me?"

Okay, I thought as I handed her a small treat and started pushing the stroller up the hill towards my building. It's okay. She doesn't have to tell me right away. It doesn't mean that she had a bad day, it just means that she wants her treat. A habbit, by the way--a treat after gan every day--that I have no idea how it started nor have I the foggiest how to stop it. So for now, it continues.

I made lunch, managed not to wince as every toy in the house crash landed on the floor in Princess' new manic phase that lasts roughly from the second she tantrums her way through the door after gan until, oh, I would say ten minutes after bedtime. Ya know. FOREVER.

But. Back to the moment. Throwing toys. Ima smiling, giving everyone lunch. Yes. Then, after Princess ate half of her lunch and fed the rest of it to our Hamster, we read a book. I hugged her. She hugged me back. I melted all over the couch like warm butter on top of a stack of pancakes. Then--

"So I told a girl about how Coco-pop turned 2."

"Oh! Is this girl a friend of yours?"

"NO. Because while I was talking she said to another girl, 'let's not listen to her. Let's go away.' And then they went away."

"Oh. That must have made you feel very bad."

"They didn't want to hear what I was saying. They stopped me in the MIDDLE. And I was left all alone."

Princess looked up at me with my own eyes, and just like that, I am a little girl again. And such a shy little girl. So shy, I stammer. Only in school. I would sit in class and doodle, and dream. Social interaction was something to watch and wonder about. This lasted until 5th grade, when I decided that being popular was like a science, a formula to figure out. I figured it out. I cracked the code. I became wildly popular for one year. Then promply lost interest.

But before was painful. I was an open book, all my pages unread. "Why are you so insecure?" my mother used to say half to me, half to herself, perhaps not realizing that reading 20 books a week had led me to understands the meaning of words such as "insecure." (also some other words which I would never ever use, you understand, but were a lot of fun to think VERY LOUD.) "Why are you so insecure? You are so beautiful." As if being beautiful would make others love me. As if being beautiful would make me love myself.

A memory...standing on the porch of my summer bungalow, rocking the ancient structure wih my grief. "Ima! Ima! They--they!--listen to what they are singing!"

Because the two other girls in the bulgalow colony that were my age were standing on the porch of the bulgalow next door and singing a song that can make me cry even now, if I would think about it for too long. (and helped along with some hormone juice and also it helps if I gained a pound or two that day.)

Here I present to you, untarnished by age, unfettered by literary style, the song of Mean Girls everywhere:

We're buddies
We're friends
But we're NOT D's friend
We're friends forever
Just us two
But NOT D's

I think it was picked up by a major studio, by the way.

But let us woosh right back to my daughter, 20 years later. I will leave the little girl me, holding on to the railing of her rotten porch because her knees won't support her. Histroy does not have to repeat itself, and besides, doesn't Princess know how BEAUTIFUL she is?


"Princess, when someone says something like that to you, that's a clear sign that she's probably not someone that you want to be friends with. It probably means that you should choose a different friend."

"Yeah, because she's kinda silly. Because I was still talking."

"Yeah, kinda silly."

", can I have a treat because what she said made me sad?"

Associate food with comfort? Yeah, why not. Who am I kidding? "Okay, but a small treat. And then we'll go to the park. And find a friend who talks nicely."


And then the next day I found out that the Mean Girl is just a Sad Girl because she had been best friends with Rochelli, the little girl in my neighborhood who died so tragically this summer.

Which made me think over a whole bunch of things, really.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Alright. 10 good things about me. Big and small. Things that i can take credit for and things that G-d handed to me. (Because really, they were all handed to me...)

1. I sing to my kids. A lot. Coco-pop's first sentence was "Sing whole song, Ima!"

2. I can make my husband laugh.

3. I am a good cook.

4. I admit when I am not good at something.

5. I feel very deeply for other people's pain.

6. I rock as an actress.

7. I'm a pretty good director and writer, too.

8. I'm spontaneous and flexable. I can be happy in a lot of different situations.

9. I brought two beautiful babies into this world.

10. I overcame something that was really big and consumed me. And I do everything that I can to keep it from creeping back.

...erm. Okay! Now all of you have to make me feel better and not left hanging out there like a big matza ball. We all rock! Share your wonderful traits as well!

Or pay the price.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dip the Apple

"Thank G-d there's a fast tomorrow; I must have gained 5 pounds over Rosh Hashana" is probably not the best thought to pop into ones head right after havdala, is it?

No, I thought not, as well.

Ah, me. What will be? Why is it that when I sat down to think about my progress this year, the only thing that I could think of was the fact that I lost 20 pounds over the summer? (and of course the thought following that thought, lest I be too happy with myself, is that I still want to lose 10 more?)

I have so much to be thankful for. This time last year, Outdoorsman was in a black hole job that was sucking his creativity and self-respect, a job that had started out with so much promise and us doing the happy dance in the middle of the living room, and trickled down to betrayal and emptiness and the ugly cry in the middle of the kitchen. I was attempting to support my little family, and it mostly worked because we only had our electicity turned off twice, and I can make so many creative and delicious dishes out of nothing but hot water and pasta.

Now Outdoorsman is busy with a job that he loves,(and it makes money! and I like money! money buys sweet crunchy apples and rolls of fluffy toilet paper and stickers for charts and shampoo for hair! and you can pay bills with it! and basically exchange it for goods and services! or just roll around in it and laugh a loud, evil laugh!)and he still has time to learn, and he does so now with a clear head and a chavrusah that he enjoys, and I am free to fill my freezer with challa and zucchini bread and keep my baby home with me. Also, did I mention that I lost 20 pounds? (and did you know that all I wanted to lose was 20 pounds, and now that I lost 20 pounds, I want to lose 10 more? Do you know that being thin is not the road to happiness? I know, I still think it is, too. I'll keep you updated after I lose 10 more pounds.)

I can turn this post so easily into a rant about how ungrateful I am, and how I still have the same goals yearafteryearafteryear--and how sad that makes me, and how I feel like I have not grown at all in so long.

But, I will not. Because a wise person informs me (thank you, love) that I have changed, and even if I have not changed one iota, such thoughts are self-defeating do not come from a good place. And thoughts that come from the Dark will keep you in the Dark.

So I choose to think about the wonderful things. There are so many wonderful things. About me. Really!

20 minutes later--

Wow, this is harder than I thought. This is ridiculous, in fact. I will think. I will think long and hard. And the next post will be a list of all the things that I
totally rock at.

I'd rather be in the light. Ah gut bebenched yur.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Man is Just a Man

The Rabbi said something so perfect about my grandfather at his shloshim yesterday. He said that he was of a generation of men who, every day, for 90 years, did what they were supposed to do and did it to the best of their abilities. No fanfare, no dreams of glory, just discipline and hard work and the knowledge that you were using your talents to make the world a better place.

I think that this is best personified in the two degrees that my grandfather held. One in social work, and one in sewology. My grnadfather started camps all over the US, Canada, and Israel. He got a degree in social work to understand group dynamics and to be able to raise the bar for modern orthodox Jewish camps to a degree that had never been seen before but is now the model for camps everywhere. And the sewology degree--well, the sewers in camp backed up. Someone had to take care of them.

I spent the morning cleaning, and I broke down a little, because I spend every morning cleaning, and I guess I have really evil elves because instead of a clean apartment and carefully mended shoes, I have dirty diapers hanging from the lone lightbulb on the ceiling and cottage cheese forming in the bottom of abandoned sippy cups. (I gotta stop filling the little saucers up with milk and switch to Jack Daniels. Maybe that'll help my elf problem.)

And it's all the same and it's always the same, and I clean and make dinner and clean and make breakfast. And clean. And something inside of me this morning woke up and she had bed hair and stubbed her toe or something, because she was angry.

"Enough," she said. "Enough! Diapers! Dishes! Dirt! And other nasty things that start with a "D"!"

"So," I said back, toilet brush in hand. "I should just leave it all and read a book?"

"No!" she shrieked, and threw the toilet brush across the bathroom. (since the bathroom is roughly the size of a refridgerater after you put an elephant inside, it didn't go too far.) "Go do something important! What happened to you, D? Your New York Time's bestseller! Your acting career! Your world famous art! Your changing the world thing! Remember all that? Put down that toilet brush, girl, and untaggle the gnarls in your soul!"

--which I'm not sure the meaning of, exactly, but I guess it does mean that she is not so happy with me. And how I am living my life.

But twenty washed dishes later, I knew that even though I still have to do some animal training on my inner Ambition, and even though it's true, I could be doing things better, I could be making more time for the rest of the world--I am making my own little world a better place for my little family. And the social worker/sewologist that was my grandfather would be proud of me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trail Of Crumbs

This is a shout-out to Outdoorsman! Whom I just rudely kicked off the computer and who just fell asleep on the couch waiting for me--

I love you! You are the sweetest, nicest, hardest-working husband in the whole wide world. I love your thoughts on torah and on our daily lives. I love how you always try to be more than you were the day before. I am awed and amazed at your drive and motivation, and how you always know the right thing to say and when to say it.

But right now, what amazes me most of all is the fact that when I opened up the third drawer in the freezer to put an extra challa from shabbas back inside, I saw them. The two gallon-sized freezer zip-locks that I had filled on tuesday with 8 dozen freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies.

They are filled with chocolately goodness no more.

I am amazed and a little bit in awe of you right now, Outdoorsman.

And also need to bake more cookies.

Half of which I shall hide in a container marked "Chicken fat."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Ancient Hebrews Are Coming!

Gan is: Crying. Tantrums. Acting out. Then a light in the horizon:

Princess: "Ima, today a Hebrew girl walked in the room, and another Hebrew girl told her "Tizkor hadelet" and she closed the door, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS. It means to close the door! And I know that." Her eyes glow. Her dimple shows.

She's going to do it! It's hard and I hate myself for leaving her sobbing to play in her small fringe group of anglo children when she is used to being the queen of gan and the center of attention in general. But she's getting it! And she is so proud!

"Tizkor hadelet!" Princess says again.

Coco-pop looks up from eating her lunch of scrambled eggs and Where the Wild Things Are. "Delet! Door!" She exclaims. She gets up and runs to the front door. "Delet door!"

Maybe it'll be easier the second time around.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'll sleep in your embrace at last

But you would live, 'Ponine, dear G-d above
If I could heal your wounds with words of love...

Was going to write about Princess' next few days of gan. Her stiff upper lip until I am about to leave. Her puffy eyes upon my return. Her joke: "Ima, I made friends with a Hebrew girl! (ancient hebrews, anyone?) I understand everything she says!" Joyous, incredulous mother, then--"Just joking!" Her tantrum over Shabbas and her ear-splitting declaration, "I don't wanna LEARN HEBREW!"

But then my mother called and told me that my father is in the hospital again. He was foaming at the mouth and nose (like soap suds, she tells me, and I gag at the sudden visual imagery) and could barely breathe, and had to be stabilized before transferred to the ambulance.

Thank G-d my mother found him in time, thank G-d they stabilized him in time, thank G-d we had a friend who had emergency room duty and got him a room. Thank G-d for hospitals, and hatzala drivers, and the little voice in my mother's head that told her to check on my father.

Yes. All that is thanks to G-d.

But all I can think of is, he could have died. Alone. Like that. Foaming and without breath or voice while my family sat five feet away from him, chatting in the kitchen over ice cream cones from Sweet Choice and after Shabbas dish washing.

Alone in a house full of people, he could have died.

I know that we don't choose how, or when. But please, dear G-d above, don't let him die like that. Let him die as he lived, surrounded by love.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Like a no good can of beans

So, actually, the first day of gan went pretty smoothly.

I woke up in a cold sweat, went to the bathroom 3 times, left the apartment a flying wreck, and exited at precisely 7:45 AM to Meet The Teacher.

She was sweet, the classroom had little corners with toy stations set up in them, and the teacher's assistant held out a container of candies to each new girl. Coco-pop figured the system out pretty quickly and waited in line time and again until her little mouth and fists were full. Princess looked around, enchanted. I stayed with her for around an hour, and then gently told my beloved progeny, who was bent over a doll carriage and in the process of tucking a blanket around a slightly chewed-on baby, that I would be leaving in around an hour, and prepared myself for the flood of pain and tears.

That's when her ponytail started talking to me. It said, "That's okay. You can go now."

I stared her ponytail in the eye for a while. Then I said, brokenly, "do I even get a hug?"

He ponytail swung back and forth a little. Then it said, "Maybe when you come to pick me up."

So there was angst and tears after all. But they were all mine.

My loving arms have been exchanged for a doll carriage.

There was another thing that I didn't count on; Coco-pop's feelings at the loss of her playmate/ruthless enemy. I thought that she would enjoy the quiet morning with me, but every few minutes she would go to the window, and call out, "Princess, where are you?" And look at me with confusion when I replied that Princess would be coming home soon. Her toys had no meaning, and she didn't even want her milk. She just stood at the window, waiting for her Princess to come home.


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