Chai Wolfman, past contributing blogger
Chai is an artist,
writer, cellist, yogi, partner, mother, and person trying to stay balanced,
enjoy life, and give back. She is currently painting and writing as much as
possible in between play dates and toddler dance parties.
Growing up in
the tiny Jewish community of Appleton, Wisconsin has left her only mildly useful
in playing Jewish geography. She is slightly better since moving to Chicago,
where she now lives with her partner, Mandi, and their twin daughters, Violet
Her current artwork and writing projects can be found at www.chaiwolfman.com and www.chaiwolfmanstudio.etsy.com.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
Change is possible. When I first came out to my grandmother, she told me that she was okay with it, but didn’t agree with gay marriage. Several years later, this same grandmother actually hosted our wedding at her home.
Joey Garfield says he thinks in pictures. And lucky for us, he makes a living sharing those images with the world through his documentary films. After directing a documentary on graffiti art, Garfield realized he could make films about more stuff he liked. Like beatboxing.
Surprising my grandma by showing up to her synagogue for Friday night services was great fun, but something felt out of place. The fancy birthday dinner we had for my grandma and her closest friends was a wonderful celebration, but we couldn’t help but notice my grandpa’s absence. For the first time, he wasn’t well enough to leave the nursing home to attend the celebrations.
A hipster is not simply a skinny musician in tight pants and Chuck Taylors with a PBR in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A young Jewish professional is not always a well-dressed, curly-haired, no-nonsense woman. And an artist is not always a tormented waif with a crazy haircut and a half sleeve tattoo. I don’t fully fit into any of these subcultures, but they are all a part of me.
Over the past year, while walking or running under the Bryn Mawr underpass at Lake Shore Drive, I’ve admired the sparkling colors and tiles, wondering who was responsible for this gorgeous mural. Then, a few months ago, my friend Orit mentioned that she was hiring teens to create another mural for the Bryn Mawr underpass.
I’m an avoider. My solution to the circumcision question (to cut or not to cut) is: I’ll only have girls. I am sure that this impractical resolution will result in a family of boys. I would never even have been thinking about this question had it not been for Chicagoan Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon’s film, Cut. And he would never have been thinking about this issue if not for the time, at 15-years-old, he served as the Sandek, the person who holds the baby during the ritual, for his cousin’s bris in Jerusalem. He was appalled when the Mohel leaned over the baby and came up with blood on his beard.
Nothing could prepare me for last year: living with a 1L. For those not familiar with the term 1L, lucky you. You have never had the pleasure of being the partner of a first year law student. Yep, my partner is studying to be a partner. (That is definitely going to get confusing.)
Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat it too has not been in the shoes of T.J. Shanoff. He is passionate about his work, has never had a day job, owns a home in the city he loves, travels the world and has a flexible schedule. Jealous? So what does he do? Apparently, it’s complicated.
I invited Libby, Stef and the rest of the Oy! team to my band’s CD release show this coming weekend and the next thing I knew they wanted me to write a story about releasing a record. Well, see the thing is…it is not really a CD release, at least not by traditional standards: we haven’t signed a record deal, we’re not on a major — or any — label.
I literally fell off my chair one day while playing duets with my friend and fellow cellist, Elliot Mandel. The floor was slippery; my chair slid back, my bum hit the floor all in a split second. But I saved my cello – held high above my head – my instincts kicked in and I saved my baby. Elliot was very gracious about it, laughing along with me while I giggled hysterically on the floor. But this story isn’t about my life long love affair with my cello (though it kind of is), this is about Elliot, his cello and the Oakley Street Cello Ensemble.
Every day, Dr. Jeremy Weisz collects quotes and keeps track of his favorites. The latest one at the bottom of all his emails reads: "Excellence can be attained if you Care more than others think is wise, Risk more than others think is safe, Dream more than others think is practical, and Expect more than others think is possible." (Author Unknown)
I am writing this at the risk of being brushed off as a crazy cat person. I have the best cats in the world. They are the most snuggly, loudest purring, most playful, greet-you-at-the-door-every-time-it-opens kittens. Mr. Pants and Cocoa Bean grace the wallpaper on my computer. I have a picture of them on my office bulletin board and my refrigerator at home. But they are not framed photographs. You have to draw the line somewhere.
Our neighborhood Jewel just completed its renovation. This is not just a statement of fact or inconsequential news. It is a sign. When we lived in Lincoln Square, the Jewel was being renovated along with a million gut rehab jobs and new condo buildings. Prices went up. Mom and Pops moved out. Potbelly’s and Coldstone moved in.
Morning sickness is a wholly inaccurate term, occurring all day, every day, 24/7. Only sleep provides some relief, and then only until the moment you wake up. (Don’t even think about trying to fall back asleep, you’ll be running to the bathroom in five minutes. And again when you get to work, and again when you get home.)
I’m not a hard line environmentalist, but I try to do eco-friendly things like support local agriculture through a CSA share, bring my own bags to the grocery store, and recycle. I know these small things are important, but my motivation to be green pales in comparison to the environmental passion of my best friend Erin.
Michael Goldstein, aka the Mensch with a Wrench, is the ultimate handyman. He will tackle the projects you don’t know how to do, don’t want to do, or simply don’t have time to do. Some people refer to Michael as a marriage counselor because he takes care of the 'honey-do' list! He'll put together your IKEA furniture, mount your T.V., fix your electrical problems, or build you a deck.
Now that the nausea has mostly subsided and the shock of having twins has been replaced by pure excitement, Mandi and I have been getting things ready for the arrival of The Winks. I’ve been thinking a lot about setting up the nursery and other logistical details. We have so many ultrasound appointments now that I’m making a scrapbook of all the ultrasound pictures. But most importantly, I’ve been thinking about what kind of life I want to create for the girls, as I imagine many new parents must do around this time. As part of my mental preparation for being a mom, I made a list of some of the hopes and dreams I have for Bug and Sprout.
It has now been a week and five days since I have worn shoes, gone on a walk, or left the house. I am no longer allowed to do these things until I reach the critical week 32 of my pregnancy. Especially with twins, my doctor says I can’t be too careful. When I found out about being on light bed rest I had trouble telling my colleagues and friends without tearing up.
Eight months can go by in a flash. As an adult, each birthday seems to come more quickly than the one before, even though they are 12 months apart, every time. Couples are engaged for an average of one full year before their wedding. Pregnancy is (generally) 40 weeks, or about nine months. I’ve been working at my job for an eight month stretch ten times over, but it often seems like just yesterday that I started.
Next week I am voluntarily walking away from the most Jewish part of my life – my job as Senior Program Specialist at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Never mind that my job title gives little indication of what work I actually do. In this building, there are lots of Jews and a few non-Jews doing good work for people in need of support, basic needs, a Jewish connection.
Last year was my most memorable Chanukah ever. My water broke on the first night and two and a half (loooonnnngg) hours later Violet and Autumn were born. It was a miracle on a night celebrating miracles.
Watching a child discover new things for the first time makes me nostalgic for innocence. The look of pure joy and unabashed pride is amazing to watch unfold on a child’s face. With a wide grin and sparkling eyes, they can be openly proud of a job well done and no one thinks they are boastful or arrogant.
“Have you practiced your cello yet?” It’s a question, but growing up it was the answer to my questions about watching T.V., playing at a friend’s house, having a sleepover, you name it. Some days I responded with a groan, other’s a happy “Yep! Can I go now?”
This past spring, if you looked beyond the white curtains and protective iron bars lacing our kitchen window, you would have seen a pair of mourning doves making their nest atop the storage cabinet on our back porch. Last year, they made a home in the same spot and their eggs fell.
The farm owners were busy making roasted tomatoes and canning salsa. Everything smelled fresh and tasted delicious. It was our annual trip to the farm in southwest Wisconsin. In our first 24 hours there, we picked apples and plums and raspberries and grapes and tomatoes and ate them right there next to the plants and trees.
So I'm totally afraid of being that annoying mommy writer who only writes about her kids and then I looked at the last few things I've written and found that I already am that person. How did this happen? I have so many other things to talk about. Don't I?
As the Jewish half of our relationship I am responsible for building the Jewish foundation of our home. My partner Mandi is completely on board but she doesn't have the experience or knowledge base to know where to start. She grew up in a Catholic family, and now embraces a deep sense of spirituality and belief in God, but does not practice a religion. Since I grew up in a Reform Jewish household, we are clearly an interfaith family, right?
So my friend wrote a book and I'm trying to find a way to write an interesting post that lets people know about this book and makes people want to read it without writing a book report. What I really want to write about is how I knew this friend in a past life, so I'm just going to get this book plug in first and then write about that.
On the first day of our family vacation, we woke up early and headed out—not to Door County where we had been planning to go—but to the emergency room with two lethargic, dehydrated two-year-olds.
Get real experience from your internship in Israel. Spend 5-10 months kick-starting your career with world-class innovators who won't send you out for coffee. Instead, you'll be a real part of the action. Here at Masa Israel Journey, we don't just help you find the best internships, we also offer funding to help you get there.
Go to www.MasaIsrael.org/Intern to see how we can help you find and fund your perfect internship.
Start here. Go further.
Sign up for a JUF Chicago community bus this winter. Taglit-Birthright Israel is a FREE 10-day experience of a lifetime. If you are Jewish, 18-26 years old, and have never been on an organized peer program before - let your journey begin!
With Shorashim you experience the adventure of Israel through the eyes of Israeli peers. Shorashim is the Taglit-Birthright Israel program where all groups travel for 10-days with Israelis your age. Visit http://israelwithisraelis.com for info.