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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Last night U. went out for much-needed groceries.

When he came home, ND went downstairs to him to help put them away.

"Yay, Dad! You got food!" she said.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Health, As Of Late

A week ago I was in the midst of the worst day of the worst cold I've had in awhile. I had a nasty one right around Yom Kippur, but part of the problem with that is I worked through some bad days of it. This one started on a Thursday gently, blew up full-blast on a Monday I missed 2 days of work. (I missed Monday already anyway to do some work from home, but then Tuesday and Wednesday I was flattened.) Now, a week later, I have to acknowledge I'm still a little weak. I'm trying to trust the needs of my body.

Why it was good to get sick:

1. I got a ton of work done on anecdotals, making this week's visit from my parents much more relaxing.

2. It made me reconnect with my body, as it always does.

3. I now realize I don't get nearly as sick as often as I think. Yes, I get a sore throat every two weeks or less, but I think it might be something other than "sick". Rather, it's a reminder to slow down.

4. I was inspired to get the H1N1 vaccine which I had been unsure of before. Still not certain how that will play out, and still don't feel comfortable getting it for ND. She's actually stronger than I am in terms of bouncing back from viruses, and I don't trust putting things into her that don't belong there. Two of our doctors have recommended against, one for. 

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ND's Third Birthday!

What a fabulous birthday it was. My only complaint is that I had a bit of a cold through it. It at least stayed at bay until yesterday afternoon. Now I have a sinus infection and am missing a lot of work, but am still happy about the party.
This was ND's first birthday party. In honor of the occasion we invited our friends who used to live next door and now live a 3 or 4 hour drive away. They arrived on Sat. night very late when ND was already asleep. The next morning their older son and ND warmed up to each other almost instantly, even after months without seeing each other.

At last the party actually began and we had about 20 guests -- half children and half adults. We had an amazing cake from my friend at Ivy Lane Cakes:
As you can guess, it was a Curious George themed party. 

We read Curious George and the Birthday Surprise, we played stick the butterfly to George, played Bingo, colored, made special visors and, best of all, played "The Man With The Yellow Hat Says..."

The next day when ND woke up she suddenly looked up at me, smiled and said, "I'm three now!"

(Incidentally, for any curious family members, here are many more videos, but they are very long.)

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009


This is a copy of the drash I'm giving this week at my shul. I'm open to comments, though I'm giving this verbally, not in written form. So don't worry about little edits....

One of the consequences, for better or for worse, of being the daughter of a psychiatrist is that you get drawn to dramatic images of the psyche. As a result, Vayishlach holds one of my favorite scenes in the Torah of Yaacov wrestling with the angel. This takes place the night before Yaacov is to meet up with his brother, Esau, who at last encounter wanted to kill him. Tnd the angel represents a profound inner struggle for Yaacov.
Let’s step back for a moment and consider Yaacov and Esau’s origins. Yaacov was “a wholesome man, abiding in tents.” He spent his days learning Torah and investing in the spiritual world. By contrast, Esau “became a man who knows trapping, a man of the field.” He knew the ways of the world and how to get whatever he wanted. In essence, Yaacov’s life was a humble one whereas Esau’s was one of acquisition and materialism.
Between that introduction to their characters and the night of Yaacov’s wrestling match, Yaacov has undergone some dramatic shifting in character. During his time with Laban, he has become quite skilled with deception and has acquired a great deal of wealth in the process, much like his brother, “the man who knows trapping.” His gift to Esau alone included 200 she-goats, 20 he-goats, 200 ewes and 20 rams, 30 nursing camels and their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 she-donkeys and 10 he-donkeys.
Rashi provides us with a strange insight. “Yaacov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.” In reference to the phrase, “And Yaacov was left,” Rashi says “He had forgotten some small jars and went back for them.” Rashi notes that “from here we see that the righteous treat their property with care.” It is exceptional that a man of such great wealth would take the care to show respect for a few items that were basically disposable. He has everything he needs in this world, but doesn’t want to give up his humble beginnings of someone for whom basic items are precious. Ironically, the righteous aspect of Yaacov that is less materialistic is the side that shows greater sensitivity to conserving the material that he has acquired.
Yaacov is a spiritual person who has had to learn how to be materialistic. As he wrestles with this angel he is struggling with how he can he reconcile the two sides, having a stake in both the material and spiritual world without losing out on what he needs from either. Who is he now?

I’d like to share two contemporary stories of this same struggle.

My grandmother grew up in the south during the Depression. She has modestly told me stories about what it was like living in those days and how to she had to pick cotton or find any other work she could even at shamefully unfair wages to help support her family. The hardest part of this, she tells me, was that the other children made fun of her for not having shoes. Thankfully those times are long past, and as a result, she loves shoes and has a closet filled with them. The shoes in her closet mean something. They are a celebration of no longer living in poverty, but a reminder too of humble beginnings.
Now I, two generations later, have never had to worry about going barefoot. I am grateful for never having had to face times like Meemau did, and shoes don’t mean a whole lot to me other than being a necessary item I wear everyday and, frankly, a bit of clutter that I need to deal with.

Another story... In the weeks before Thanksgiving we were studying Native Americans in my second grade classroom. We had the opportunity to invite a woman, actually the aunt of one of my students, who has spent some time with Jewish teenagers working on a Navajo reservation in the Southwest. She came to a room full of 80 second graders and asked them what do they do when it rains. They all said of course that they have to have inside recess and I’m sure most of them are used to complaining when it’s raining outside.
Then she described to us that one summer she was present for a rainstorm when there hadn’t been rain for a full 5 months. She said that whenever the rain comes, the people go to the Hogan which she described to the children as being like a shul, and sit on the earth floor and listen silently during the duration of the entire storm. The children were affected by what she told them but I’m sure can never fully internalize what that really means, to not know you’ll have enough water to drink, to wash with, to cook with, to water your crops. When water comes out of the tap in abundance, how can we teach the importance of not wasting it? How can we internalize that the world faces major water shortage, even when we see a rainfall

My question today is... if we are living in a time and in a geographic area of relative abundance, how can we retain an understanding of preciousness and a respect to the material things in our life that we are so fortunate to have. How can we be Yaacov, cultivating humility in a materialistic world and apparent abundance, and not Esau who just consumes. How can we pass that concept on to our children?

Next week is Channukah, a holiday about a war that left the temple in ruins without even enough olive oil to keep the menorah lit. Hashem sent a miracle and the oil burned as long as was needed.
An abundance of oil means nothing if you don’t know how precious it is. This holiday is an opportunity to explore what it means to have something be precious.

I’d like to suggest one thing that is precious to everyone in the world, whether or not you are blessed with material wealth and whether or not you have an abundance of natural resources. Every single person faces limitations in time. Every night of Channukah we light the candles and are given a small window of time that is as precious as shoes for someone who is barefoot, or water for someone who is thirsty. If we can use that time to be active with our family and do something special each night, if we can remember to make those moments matter, I think we can gain quite a lot of insight. Not only do we get the joy from having that time together, but we can train ourselves to use the objects and resources in our world with the care that they warrant.

Yaacov found balance and prevailed in his struggle between taking on material abundance and still retaining a responsible and spiritual sense of how to interact with the physical world. Now, thousands of years later, our choice to prevail in the same battle has the potential of making him proud.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Channukah

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Our School In The News

We did this!

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