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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim 2010 ended (at least until after Costume Day/100th Day of School/Shushan Purim tomorrow)

A weird Photo Booth picture of my little elephant up here. (She didn't want to wear the trunk.)

Not all that much more to tell. I'm so proud and satisfied after hosting my first Purim seudah. We had just 2 guests, one a rabbi from back when I was a teenager who is currently living in Long Island, and a single person from our shul. I knew instinctively I should have them both without having any idea that it would turn out that already now each other!

The seudah was fun and felt Purim-esque even though I didn't have much planned. The Rabbi friend came 3 hours early and we cooked Indian food together.

The weirdest part came in the middle. We were buried in about 20 inches of snow last Thursday. Our front door has a slanting roof hanging over it and now and then slabs of snow have slid down and crashed over it. Someone came to our house to deliver mishloach manot from the shul. I saw from the window something was wrong... she was eyeing the house trying to figure out if we were home, and how to get up the steps given the enormous pile of snow there. I opened the door and we stretched our arms over the pile, her handing the basket to me. 

"Don't get any closer," I warned as I looked up at the ice above me. "It looks like the rest will slide off any minute. 

Sure enough, no sooner had she gotten back into her car but the rest came crashing down.

Really cool!

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Purim 2010

Having a great Purim so far. For the second year in a row I was the main organizer for the women's megillah reading here. I gave the drash tonight too... 

I spoke about the women at the beginning of the megillah who are forced to be passive as they are drawn into King Achashverosh's palace. Esther, like them, is passive until she learns of the decree to kill the Jews. She says to Mordechai that she doesn't know what she can do. "I haven't been invited to the King in 30 days." She has been well trained to do nothing, say nothing unless invited. When Mordechai says, "Who knows? Perhaps this is the reason you are in the palace," he talks her into taking an active stance and she makes a significant shift.

In megillah, King can refer either to King Achashverosh or to Hashem. So when Esther makes that choice to be active, she is metaphorically leaving the palace of King Achashverosh and actively entering that of Hashem. 

When King Achashverosh looks around at his women, he just sees pretty people. When Hashem looks, he sees individuals each created with a divine and unique purpose. It takes a righteous figure like Mordechai to help Esther see herself in the second palace. 

We can be active and make a difference in our worlds like Esther. We can also help others realize their potential like Mordechai as we make a point of seeing others as created by G-d with a unique mission and purpose. We can reflect that uniqueness back to others to help them realize their potential.


Leading up tonight I felt anxious and high-strung. I think that I get very anxious before a holiday about making it amount to everything it could be. ND was licking a Tootsie Pop and it occurred to me that I think of holidays as being like a Tootsie Pop with something precious (more like light in my image actually) deep inside needing to come out. If we do the holiday right, we can get to the chewy center. However, it feels like we just get a few licks before we move on to mundane lives. I often blame this on not having "the right community," by not being able to be both chassidic and "modern" simultaneously, actually. But maybe we are all really trapped in a physical world and it's more in our awareness of the moment that we can find the light. I'm not sure if that's an inherently Jewish concept or not, but it seems like it should be. Otherwise I'm always just painfully frustrated and not being able to achieve spiritual heights.

A way of looking at how to make holidays special is just to think about today. The absolute highlight of my day, Shabbat... came as I was just playing with ND today. I had had a nap and read her a story which we then made into a puppet show. Nothing distracted me because it couldn't. No computers... no phone... That's what Shabbat is on a mundane level...not doing things. But that mundane-ness is what makes special moments possible. I explained that to ND that Shabbat helps make that happen by keeping us from doing certain things. I think I should try to grab less at the holidays and float within more. At the same time, I'm really glad I've been gearing myself up for it for awhile. 

Already getting excited for Pesach next!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Repairing and Reclaiming: An hour with a sewing machine

Purim is coming. Time to figure out the costumes.

I have only ever really wanted one thing for my costume and that is to wear a cloak where I can cover my head mysteriously and have a beautiful cape flowing behind me.

It wasn't until 2003, the year that I coincidentally was diagnosed with cancer, that I discovered that I could dress up as the Elfin character I'm named after in Lord Of The Rings.

Every year I wonder if I should try something else, but I've come to the conclusion that the rest of the year I'm wearing a certain mask by not dressing as my elfin princess, and remove the mask by donning the cloak again.

I bought a cloak last year. Cheap, I admit... it was from a costume store. But it's shimmery white and looks great. Only problem is it was too long and I stepped on it a lot last year.

So today I fearfully pulled out my sewing machine to repair it. I've had this machine for years. I used to take sewing classes and my mother tried many times to teach me this art, and it never quite stuck. I'm not patient enough to measure and cut out patterns carefully. It showed with the work I did today, hurriedly pinning but not always in the right spot.

However, I love using the machine. I love the hum. I love the efficiency. When I run it, I feel wise and connected with my mother and, by extension, any other millions of women before me who had this as part of their life's work.

The truth is, I feel alienated by the fact that it doesn't fit me entirely. I feel guilty and sad that I might not be able to pass on this aspect of my own childhood to ND. As I sewed, I found myself wondering if someday when I'm retired (G-d willing) I would re-embrace this. And I know I probably won't.

There are a multitude of ways I could be, could spend my time whether I have less of it or more, but there is only one lifetime in which to do it.

I'm happy to use this machine once and awhile. I'm happy to accept that I am clumsy at it. It is not my art. Writing is.

So that's why I absolutely had to sit down here now and take this experience and turn it into the art that is eternally mine.

And on Purim, I'll be my elfin self again, and not step on the hem so much.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day 2010

I can't believe today's a snow day too! And tomorrow and Monday we already knew we'd be off. After having difficulty leaving my vacation, this is almost too much! That's good. Too much of one good thing (vacation) can help me value another good thing (my work). I think I'll actually see if I can get in the building to get some things done tomorrow.

Now to do some yoga... soothe the aching muscles after so much shoveling!

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Sunday, February 07, 2010


There was a free classical concert at the Teaneck library today. ND and I went in without my expecting to stay for more than a movement or two, but ND just didn't want to stop. A nice woman gave us her seat in the back. ND stood on my legs so she could see and she moved her whole body with the movement. I had to tell her to slow down sometimes so that I wouldn't drop her and so she wouldn't annoy the people around us, but she did love it. I even tried to get away during the intermission with not telling her it was over, but as we explored the library she heard the music start again and insisted on returning.

She loved the clapping-at-the-end part especially.

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