Thursday, September 23, 2010

Retirement Fund

Shabbat #35:

Guests: Our next door neighbor Kenny

Menu: Israeli Spiced Grilled Chicken, Tomato & Cucumber Salad with Lime Vinegarette, Sweet Potato Stuffed Kreplach, Sorbet

What I Learned:


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yom Kippur: Fish Eyes

I think pretty much everyone has heard of Jonah and the Whale. You know ... the guy who gets himself thrown into the ocean while trying to weasel out of some serious work and ends up in the belly of a whale. There's a lot more to the story, but it was the belly of the whale part that always hung me up. Hearing the story as a child, I wondered whether someone could actually live inside a whale. Could it happen to me? And then there was the whole "gross" factor on the whale puking Jonah onto the shore. Followed by the chorus of "eews" from the Sunday School story circle.

Even today it still hangs me up. What exactly was Jonah doing in that whale the whole time? I'm guessing he was praying, giving thanks for being alive (albeit in a belly) and making amends with G-d. But seriously folks, three days is a long time. There must have been more.

If I were stuck in a whale for three days (and believe me ... some days I actually wish for three days alone ... anywhere) what would I be doing? Besides praying. If it's like anytime else I've felt trapped in a place I didn't want to be, I'd probably obsess about not being able to run. And then I'd obsess about all the things I could be doing ... like billing time, running errands, planning dinner and finally remembering to not send the kids to school in their grubbiest t-shirts for picture day.

And then I'd settle in. Right in front of those two big fish eyes that would be my windows to the world and make a decision.

Would I look out those windows wishing I were someone else, namely someone not trapped in the belly of a fish? Someone else that I imagined was luckier, had better judgment and surely would have not gotten herself into a pickle like me.

Or would I look into the window at my own reflection. Not at the wrinkles and the scar beneath my left eye that I'm still trying to embrace, but inside myself ... the woman who landed herself smack dab in the belly of a whale.

Having spent a good number of my nearly 40 years looking out, I've pretty much concluded that wishing I was someone else does not make it so. If it did I would have been prom queen or "that mom" whose life seems to spin in perfect order. I've let go of my ballot in the box, prom queen validation and am finally beginning to understand that "that mom" who appears to be floating through life is probably paddling like hell underneath just like the rest of us. Wishing for those things now only makes me, well, less hopeful.

I've also spent a good amount of time, particularly lately, looking in. Looking within myself for the reason why I'm sometimes the one stuck in the belly of a whale and making changes to insure I don't end up there again anytime soon. And I can tell you sometimes it's pretty darn hard. Like "throw me overboard so I can wait for someone else to save me" hard. But most the time its been worth the effort with each effort building upon the last. And that's what makes me, well, more hopeful. Not to mention stronger, more honest and more certain.

So if I ever find myself in the belly of a whale like Jonah, I'm planning to use those three days and those two big fish eyes to look in.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Family Camp

Shabbat #32

Camp Manitowa Family Camp


To One Sweet New Year ... And One Sweet Kugel

Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday. For all of the obvious reasons. And for one not so obvious reason.

Mah's Sweet Kugel.

Deb Z. -- affectionately known as "Mah" to an endless stream of daughters and grandchildren -- is my sister-in-law's mom.

It's hands down the best kugel ever. But that's not why I love it so. I love it because it reminds me of, well, everything else I love. Like pasta. And dessert. All rolled into one. Like the first Jewish holiday that I spent with Steve's extended family when I first tasted it. Exactly one year after Steve asked me out on our first date. It reminds me of a house bursting with family. And of my oldest niece Dylan who requests that "Mah" make it for every birthday. And it especially reminds me of Rosh Hashanah, particularly last year's when Rabbi Talve gave me the opportunity to share my own experience with the congregation during the high holiday service. An opportunity that made my family and me stronger. And ultimately led to this Year of Shabbats.

Years ago I asked Deb for her sweet kugel recipe. It went something like "a dash of this, a dab of that" as she rattled it off the top of her head. I gave it a try, but my rendition didn't hold a candle to hers. Just as well. I'd much prefer her original, the anticipation of whether I'll find it on the table at the next holiday event and all of the sweet memories that will follow.

Happy New Year!