Alyssa Latala, past contributing blogger
Alyssa Latala is a
full-time mom and part-time Marketing Communications Manager at a small family
foundation. She lives in suburbia with her husband Joe, baby Ben and
Alyssa memorizes the lyrics to most musicals,
and frequently performs them for Ben and Ruby. She tries to read the newspaper
every day, but sometimes skips the front page in favor of the crossword puzzle.
Alyssa loves cooking, coffee and NPR.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
We had been dating for six months when I decided it was time for Joe and I to have “the talk.” We sat on his couch for a long time, going through the familiar pattern of “What’s wrong?” and “Nothing” and silence before I was able to spit it out. “I want to raise my children Jewish.”
After living in Boca Raton for nearly 30 years, my grandmother has moved back to Chicago. She brought 64 boxes of her most prized possessions with her, from the small kitten-shaped cookie jar to ancient, odorless potpourri satchels. My family, believing that she simply needed reminders of home, helped her unpack these items and find space for them in her cozy, one-bedroom apartment.
Steve Green is a networking extraordinaire. As President of GO Green Management, he attends at least two networking events every night of the week, in addition to coordinating his own monthly event. After 10 years at a sales job, Steve decided to take on a career that would make more of an impact on both his community and the environment. GO Green Management is a marketing and public relations firm with a commitment and passion to spreading the word on what it means to be “green friendly.”
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a theater degree, Aviva Gibbs landed a development job at the Goodman Theater. As a hobby, she volunteered for political campaigns; then, one afternoon, she got a tip from a friend about a job opening as Chief of Staff for an Illinois State Representative. She wrote an email to Rep. John Fritchey, convincing him that her theater degree qualified her to be his Chief of Staff.
There was an extended pause in the conversation when I asked my husband, Joe, if he would like to join me at a dance performance last Saturday night. I have dragged my poor jock husband to countless musicals and plays, but never to a dance show. I could see the images swirling through his brain – scantily clad men slithering on the floor in a bizarre interpretive dance – and braced myself for the “no.”
My friend Naomi is intimidated by chicken soup. Another friend recently tackled a fear of Thanksgiving turkey. For most of my adult life, I have resisted noodle kugel. These dishes have been cooked for countless holidays by our mothers and grandmothers. The familiar aromas wafting through our kitchens inspire feelings of comfort and familiarity, and evoke memories of less complicated times. These dishes hold such esteem in our minds – and our bellies – that we angst over the prospect of cooking them ourselves.
After arriving home from a 10-day visit to Israel on January 2, I declared to all who would listen that I would never eat falafel again. Fewer than three weeks later, while thumbing through a coupon book, I saw an ad for Mizrahi Grill, and was overcome with a craving for deep-fried chickpea balls. I grabbed my husband, ripped out the coupon and headed to Highland Park.
“Chicago is like the mother country of improv,” says Eli Galperin, one of the founding members of Altermania, an Israeli improv group hitting town April 14 as part of the Chicago Improv Festival. The annual event, this year dubbed “One World, Many Laughs,” will feature 90 ensembles from 11 different countries.
My husband and I recently came to the realization that we are living a cliché. Some might call it the “American Dream”; we sometimes call it Our Life in 847. We moved to Arlington Heights about a year ago. After renting some one else’s condo in Bucktown for a few years, we decided it was time to buy a home of our own. Our first go-round of open houses in the city was enough to send us scrambling towards suburbia, where the combined salaries of a teacher and non-profit employee stretch a bit further. Before I knew it, we were closing on a townhouse, saying goodbye to city life, and waving hello to my family, who live about a two minute drive away from the new place.
I never thought registering for baby items was something I’d do. After all, if the general Jewish practice is to hold off on bringing baby stuff into the home until after the baby is born, isn’t it kind of missing the point to shop for the things you want in advance?
Being pregnant with a first child could potentially bring out the worst in a couple. There are just so many new things to fight about – what to name the baby, how to budget for diapers, who is going to care for the baby. Joe and I have gotten through most of these issues, and more, unscathed (but please don’t ask us what we’re naming this child, because we’re letting that subject “rest” for awhile).
During my pregnancy, despite not knowing whether we were having a boy or a girl by any scientific means, I always knew that there was a boy in there. And because I just ”knew” the baby was a boy, I started planning his bris months before he was born.
Eight years ago, upon returning from a semester abroad, I put together a “Life To-Do” list. Exhilarated by my experiences and inspired to live the life of a “do-er,” I compiled a few must-do-before-I-die goals. The items on my list ranged from the possible (learn to play guitar) to the probably not possible (marry a Latino Jew) to the downright silly (streak the quad).
I know a lot about guilt. Perhaps it’s in my genes, or maybe I’m just a sucker for angst. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty for a wide variety of things, including but not limited to not calling my grandmas enough, leaving my dog alone all day, throwing my newspaper away on the train because there’s nowhere to recycle it, and watching Millionaire Matchmaker.
Recently my family received our second payout from the Austrian government. There, in the form of a check, and a nominal one at that, was the government’s way of making amends for allowing the Nazis to confiscate the property of its citizens.
Eighteen months ago, there was nothing my husband wouldn’t do to get himself an iPhone. Knowing that the phone was quite pricy, his wife was quite pregnant and his mortgage was, shall we say, significant, he realized it wasn’t the best economic investment.
Grandma Sally is 90 years old. She has accrued a lifetime’s worth of wisdom, which she is only to happy to share in the form of unsolicited advice. Truth be told, what she says oftentimes makes sense. She simply has an unintentionally funny way of getting her point across. Here are just a few of Grandma Sally’s pearls of wisdom...
Back in July 2006, my husband-to-be and I got a lot of advice. Most was to the tune of, “It takes a lot of hard work to maintain a healthy marriage.” We scoffed at the cliché. We were in love, he had cute dimples and I had cute ways of getting him to stop being annoyed with me.
I have been battling mini-panic attacks at least once a day for the last month. I’ll be sitting at my desk at work, or watching my son toss food at the dog, and all of a sudden, the evil thoughts creep into my head.
When I was a kid, and spending a Friday night at synagogue was equivalent to sitting through a math lesson, it was traditional for us youngsters to politely excuse ourselves during the Rabbi’s sermon. We’d lounge in the bathroom or the hallway, dramatically proclaiming our boredom and wondering why our parents made us go.
I was driving home with my 18-month-old, both of us bopping to the Oy Baby CD that recently appeared in my mailbox thanks to the PJ Library. Ben was too young to understand what he was hearing (Hebrew music made kid-friendly), but something about the music had him hooked; after each song ended, he said “more,” his little brain not understanding why the fun had to end.
I walk back to our mudroom, where we keep Ruby’s leash and collar, and the dog is right on my heels, crying with anticipation. After I get her ready, which takes too much time because she won’t stop jumping, I turn around and call for Ben, my 20-month-old.
My toddler son said “Oyoyoy” the other day. My inner Jewish mother kvelled. Not only was Ben starting to talk, he was starting to talk Jewish!
We sat quietly, Ben finally sleeping on my lap after nine hours of traveling by car and plane. I shifted a bit to ease the cramping in my back, but the squeak of the rubbery seat nearly woke him up, and I resigned myself to the discomfort.
We prepped for weeks. Ben had the Halloween drill down cold. We fake knocked on our own front door to practice saying “trick or treat” and “thank you.” We dug his Halloween bag out of storage and explained that it would be filled with candy soon.
We walk into the dining room, and heads turn. Diners stop eating and point. Faces light up. The wait staff, recognizing our arrival, scurries to the kitchen for the appropriate supplies. Ben, my two-and-a-half-year-old celebrity, leads me to an open table, stopping every so often to slap someone five or accept a small gift, usually a bag of oyster crackers.
When I was 20 years old, I purchased a pair of tight, bright red pants during my semester abroad in Granada, Spain. Something about the months spent soaking up the Mediterranean sun, sharing paella with my Spanish family, perfecting my Spanish accent (almost), and enjoying sangria with my new friends, changed me.
We walked out of the synagogue after my grandma's memorial service and asked what any Jewish family would ask each other after a difficult experience– where should we eat? Despite filling up on coffee cake while accepting condolences from friends, I was in need of some Jewish penicillin, and there was only one place I could think of.
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