Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

It's Done

The following entry was written off-line on:
Saturday, 5-28-05 at 10:50 PM

So I finished my three interviews. I was quite impressed by the last place. It’s a very religious girl’s school that really values good literacy education. The teacher and I speak the same language.

However, I took a different job. I think I knew I would take this one all along. The job I took is full-time, in an area I’m more comfortable living, and just felt like it would fit me more in every way, especially religiously. (Also a better salary.) I’ll be teaching 2nd grade general studies in a school in Teaneck, NJ half the day, and doing some other small group and individual work the rest of the day.

I’m really thrilled.

Now I’ve spent Shabbos in Queens and I’m especially glad that I won’t be living here. Don’t get me wrong (as they say). It’s been fun to spend the weekend in a place filled with other Jews and to be able to go to any of a dozen restaurants, clothing stores, grocery stores or anything that are frum and Kosher. But it doesn’t fit me. Even if it did, this KIND of Judaism doesn’t fit me. And I won’t give details because I don’t want to sound accusatory. But I know I don’t fit in here.
I mustn’t over-idealize Teaneck, since I was only there long enough for the interview and a deli sandwich. People tell me again and again and again that it’ll still be a culture shock, but the female principal at that school had short sleeves. The rabbi did not wear a suit. Those are simply symbols, but it’s one way to show you as a reader that it put me at ease to be there. The principals and I spoke the same educational language. The place simply fit.
This Shabbos in Queens I’ve felt like a round peg in a square hole a billion times, draining me of energy.

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Changing Comfort Levels

The following entry was written off-line on:
Saturday, 5-28-05 at 10:50 PM

The more time I spend around only Jews, the more I begin to feel anxious around non-Jewish strangers, and yet miss my non-Jewish friends.

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Why I Like Flying

The following entry was written off-line on:
Wednesday, 5-25-05 at 6:30 AM

Some people hate flying.
I love it.
I love having free time with nothing expected of me and no one knowing me. I used to enjoy long conversations with strangers on planes. (Later after writing this entry I enjoyed joining a fellow passenger in heckling or “guiding” a person in rearranging the bags in the overhead bins.)
I hate the way people stress out in airports. Once I saw a man so angry about a delayed flight that he yelled and woke up his baby until it was screaming.
But while people stress out I enjoy my separateness from them. I love being calm and low-key when others aren’t.
Coming and going is often hard for me. But flying provides a netherworld transition between the coming and the going.
I’m writing this in the Vancouver airport. It’s fairly quiet, not too many people are here. So I’m tormenting myself with worry about how this airport will be DIFFERENT from the one in Phoenix or JFK, the two other airports I’ll visit today. I sure can’t look forward to an enormous stuffed moose with an RCMP hat in any of those U.S. places. (Of course, I didn’t see one here either. But if I were to see it, this is where.)
Goodbye smug Canadian pride.
Hello noisy American arrogance.

I’m reminding myself that every person I’ll see today is an individual.

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Successfully fighting colds

The following entry was written off-line on:
Wednesday, 5-25-05 at 6:15 AM

My flight to NY leaves in 1.5 hours.

Good for me! I felt so sick yesterday but I seem to have stopped whatever I had from progressing despite having a field trip, stressing about sub. plans and repacking my bags a good four times including at 4:30 AM. I slept for the same number of hours as the number of times I repacked my bags.
Today my throat is tender and head’s a little sore, but I don’t mind. I’ve always had problems with catching lots of colds and inopportune times (my wedding weekend was one of them).
Here’s what helped me this time:
Pulsatilla
Vitamin C
Chicken soup
Sambucol
Inducing before bedtime
Snorting and gargling warm salt water (yes, I know that sounds disgusting, but it works)
Drank tons of water
Cough Drops

As you see, I don’t just let my colds sit quietly. I fight them hard. Sometimes this means I’m just bitter and whiny that I’m sick. This time, the fight paid off.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Being Right

So I was right last night.

I was getting sick.

I've always thought that when I get really anxious I make myself sick.
But as I mentioned in my last entry, I think that when I'm getting
sick, I get anxious. Even I found it hard to be around me yesterday.

But it no longer matters because I'm on the cusp of my trip now. As
soon as I repack just one more time, it's off to bed, then up at 3 or 4
AM-ish to head for my flight.

It's no good to be sick in a plane, but at least I've already got one
day of this cold out of the way and lots and lots of herbal remedies to
help me out.

Sambucol is a miracle. (Elderberry exract)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Stress

The truth is, I just don't handle stress very well.

Tomorrow is my only day at school this week. And wouldn't you know, it's a FIELD TRIP. When we get back I still have to teach a full afternoon and then spend the last few hours there making sure everything is in place for my substitute.

Next morning I'll be flying out at 7:30 AM which means getting there at 5:30 and of course waking up even earlier.

I know I'll get sick if I can't relax. Or that maybe I'm feeling stressed because I'm coming down with something.

Either way, I'm going to bed now. I just need to r...e...l...a...x.

Be in the moment.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Interview Clothes

My friend and biggest blog fan came over to help me choose clothes for my 3 interviews next week. 2 of the interviews are on one day, so that counts as one outfit, but I kind of feel like Shabbat is an interview too as I make a good impression on potential future colleagues, parents and neighbors. We worked on looking professional and making sure necklines didn't show too much collarbone. It's funny. There's this one suit that I have specifically for interviews. It has pants or a skirt. I usually wear the pants to interviews because I look so frum in the skirt. But now that I'm not interviewing for public schools, I get to look frum again and in fact was now startled at just how frum I looked.

I started getting anxious but was glad my friend was there. We talked for hours afterwards, something I don't do much during the week. It sucks I'm leaving a new friend.

"We'll still have the blog," she says.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Are you my Shechinah?

I heard back from the editor of the publication I refer to in Major Transitions. They've decided they can't print my article. She said that our dialogue has brought about some interesting conversation in her office and that she thinks our dilemma comes from different interpretations of the word "Shechinah." She describes that she thinks many children are taught that Hashem is a "power outside" but that many people who come to Judaism as adults think of Hashem as "residing within." It upsets me that she may be right that children are taught Hashem is only outside, and my impression is that she is speaking for herself as having learned about G-d in that way. She is upfront about saying that both views hold truth, but I guess it took some personal risk on her part to say so

She explained very diplomatically the breadth of the publication's readership, including Modern Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews etc., but is still concerned that the "chassidic/yeshivah" community would be alienated by my article.

I have not yet sent her my response, but in a draft I agreed with her on some points about how Hashem cannot be described in just one way and that the Torah knows this even as it anthropomorphisizes G-d. (I am tempted to use this a chance for my soapbox that this is the very reason so many people refuse to refer to G-d with the pronoun He, but I think that may cause me to lose some ground in our discussion.)

I also thanked her for continuing to advocate for my article since she says she normally doesn't ask writers to revise their work in order to fit it to the publication. It is usually either accepted or rejected as is. I can tell this really has been a difficult issue for her.

But I also challenged the idea that the Chassidic community would not understand my article, as it seems they are the most likely to describe mitzvot as being the vehicle to developing an intimate partnership with Hashem. I also brought up Alissa's response (see the Major Transitions link again) about the Shechinah coming into a union between a man and woman to help create a child. I used the argument that Judaism is beautiful specifically because of our close relationship with G-d, and that the Shechinah is a manifestation of this.

I think that this all comes down to a series of arguments in their office about how my work would be received, and I'm both fascinated and sad that my work should be so controversial. I admit that I wrote this article with a particular agenda. At the time I was noticing more and more how much guilt and fear of G-d I felt from the Orthodox Jewish community and I found it to be destructive. As my article says, I could still use the trauma of my experience to become a better person, but I didn't have to kick myself over SIN in order to get there. The reason it was important to me to actually write the article was to help other Jews stay out of the SIN cycle.

But obviously there are limitations to how we can understand each other's interpretation of Hashem. In fact it means so much to people that this publication cannot risk losing readership based on such an exploration.

I have sent another article and hope it would be less problematic. In the meantime, I hope that the dialogue in that office may have got some people thinking intimately about Hashem and how we describe Hashem to others. For my part, I want to be equally open-minded about what the "problem" is with my piece, but the truth is, I can't.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Accepting Limitations

A few months after I moved from Portland to Vancouver a casual acquaintance of an acquaintance obnoxiously said to me,

“Why did you move here? Didn’t you like Portland?”

It infuriated me at the time as I had struggled so hard to leave my home and family and, while I have really enjoyed Vancouver, it was not the first choice I would have made. How near-sighted it was for him to think that I just got up and left because I didn’t like it.

Now we’re moving to NY. This has always been sort of a fascinating fear of mine, to be in that enormous legendary city. Remembering my childhood living off in the country with our own chickens and yard and acre of land with trees my father planted etc… and realizing that I’ll probably raise children in an apartment in a city instead, upsets me considerably.

But I’ve made important choices in my life that have led to this decision. This is what is best, given the options, for my husband and me and I know that it will bring good things. I just don’t know what they are yet. And the truth is, I am very excited even though I never believed before that we would do this.

So as people ask where I WANT to be, I sometimes get annoyed. To think we have choice in all things is naive.
This is where we ARE, for better or worse, and in fact we’ve worked hard to reach this point. I’m proud to be willing to do something that wasn’t my first choice, and now have faith that I will MAKE it into the best choice possible.

I could never say this if I hadn’t done it before. I didn’t want to leave Portland, but I did it, and I haven’t looked back. In less than a year I learned to love Vancouver. So now I’ve done it once. The challenge will be magnified in such a crowded place, such a BIG place, such a distinct place. But I’ve handled big challenges before. Not only have I handled them, I’ve grown from them and enjoyed it.

Even if it IS a challenge.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Vet says

The vet says not to worry. I was considering flying my cat to NY next week when I go for interviews (2 interviews and possibly 3) and leaving her there with someone ahead of time so she wouldn't have to suffer through the move two months from now. This move includes driving from Vancouver, B.C. to NY. But the vet says she'll be fine during the move and that it's better for her to be with me.

I'm relieved. It's better for me to have her with me too.

He will give her some anti-anxiety drugs... not tranquilizers, just anti-anxiety.

Meanwhile I'm excited and overwhelmed simultaneously. Finally booked my plane ticket last night which made me late to the gym. Once there I pulled a muscle in my back during a simple yoga stretch. It's time to relax about all of this. It's all good.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Kitty in Transit

Since we've started arranging this move one of the most difficult questions for me has been how to get my cat to NY. We will probably be driving there and I don't want to put her through that car ride, nor do I want to be worrying about her while we're on a road trip.

Now it looks like I (or we) will be flying out for job interviews in the next few weeks. I want to take my cat with me and leave her with someone for two months so she doesn't have to experience the stress of our packing and driving cross-countries. (I use the plural because we might do a large portion through Canada.)

I feel all this guilt about leaving her with someone, but not much worse than making her deal with us packing. She freaked out a year ago when we were doing it and I had to take her to stay with my parents for a week. So now I just have to find someone I can trust. No easy task. Know anyone I can ask?

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Major Transitions

Are you wondering why I haven't written? (Probably not. You're probably not terribly surprised.)

Well, I'm in the middle of a major transition as you can tell by the title. My husband and I are moving out of Vancouver, probably to NY.

I had an unexpectedly positive phone call yesterday about a job in a frum Jewish school and yet I'm wary. No amount of wariness will stop me from taking a decent job unless there is a very good reason not to. (Like them not paying me.) Part of the wariness is just that it makes this move feel so real. Another is something else.

This morning I got an email from a publication that wants to reprint my article Now She Could Fill My Heart. They simply want me to change the word "Shekhinah" to something like "divine sense of healing." The editor went so far as to say that using the word Shekhinah would be "somewhat  irreverent towards HaKadosh Baruch Hu."

So I feel a little shaky. Entering a very frum community in NY and reading this... (though there is no relationship other than my receiving both simultaneously... a challenge from Hashem?) how will this challenge my own relationship with Judaism? I've never lived before in a place where I wasn't a miniscule minority. My strength in Judaism has always been about persistenly believing what I do in the face of a non-Jewish world. I've never lived in a place before where my relationship with Hashem could be so directly questioned as a result of living in a JEWISH world.





(Finally, I should add that the area of NY that I refer to above is spoken of as a place where Orthodox Jews both modern and ultra-Orthodox live side-by-side quite comfortably with their children playing together. I always have unfounded fears before I go to a new place, but I'm going to honor them and be honest about them. The real place I'm talking about is a different than the one I imagine, but the one I imagine is real to me right now and worth exploring.)

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Back to Work

Now that was one satisfying break.

The disadvantage in working on a Jewish Orthodox school is that our spring break is so very late, making kids, parents and teachers crazy.

The advantage is you get Pesach off.

I'm back to work today. Feeling tired even though I went to bed early. I'm looking forward to going, and have all these things in mind that I need to ask people, tell kids etc. I know I will forget most of it when I am bombarded by the stimuli that will mount over the course of the day living me bewildered at 4 PM. (I predict a sore throat. I always have a sore throat on my first day back. Too much talking.) Fortunately, I wrote stuff down.

It would suck to work in an airport. Talk about stimuli.

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