Karen Flayhart, past contributing blogger
A native Philadelphian, raised Methodist, with childhood ambitions of becoming President, Karen never dreamed she’d find herself living in Chicago, Jewish and married to a Rabbi, and working for JUF. And that was just the last three years of her life.
At the age of 13, Karen decided she wanted to be Jewish. But, although she occasionally attended services with Jewish friends, she never formally began the conversion process. She spent her 20s living in Washington, D.C., focused more on exploring the world than exploring religion. Then, when the love of her life decided to leave behind his political career for a higher (if not less political) calling, Karen figured G-d was calling her bluff, and she finally converted to Judaism.
Since leaving the nation’s capital, Karen has moved twice and switched from a career in marketing to a career in the non-profit world. Now in her mid-30s, Karen is grappling with settling into her new life as a Rabbi’s wife, new mother and suburbanite. While she hasn’t yet ruled out one day running for political office, having no desire to ever be on a reality TV show or in jail, it’s likely she’ll move again before doing so.
ARTICLES BY THIS AUTHOR
A few years ago, I took the greatest risk of my life. I packed up my apartment in D.C., said goodbye to my friends and a great job, and moved to Cincinnati to be with my boyfriend, a Rabbinical student at HUC. The gamble paid off: two weeks after my move, he popped the question. After having dated for a little over five years, the engagement came as less than a surprise and more as a relief to our friends and family. (The relief on the side of my friends who were afraid they would have to carry out their threats and wind up in jail.)
Even though by the age of 13 I had stopped believing in Jesus, I still went all-out every year to celebrate Christmas. I searched endlessly for the perfect tree, decorated my condo until it looked like a red and green bomb had exploded, and baked for days. I conveniently ignored the guilty feeling that I was going to hell for dispensing the holiday’s religious significance and instead focusing solely on the commercial aspects.
For years, my breasts had one great superpower: the ability to attract men faster than the speed of light in a singles bar. In a couple of weeks, my supersized breasts will have different superpowers: the ability to feed a crying infant faster than a speeding bullet, repelling men and women at the sight.
Having only been a Mom for four months, I hardly qualify as an expert on the topic of pregnancy or motherhood. But a lack of expertise hasn’t ever stopped me from doling out unsolicited advice before, so why stop now?! So, in no particular order, here are a few insights from my own experience. Oy!
After living with stark white walls, slumlords slow to fix problems but quick to raise the rent, and hauling my groceries up 3 flights of stairs and down a long hallway, only for the bag to break right before I can get my door open, I’m ready for my own place. (Ideally one where doing the laundry doesn’t rely on me having enough quarters.)
Annoyingly, the timing of my conversion coincided with Charlotte’s on Sex on the City, leaving my friends all wondering why the hell my conversion process was taking so long when Charlotte managed to convert in 3 episodes. (For the record: it generally takes one full calendar year.)
A major international crisis was nearly averted yesterday by Lady Gaga when she, in a sweeping gesture of respect for her more conservative Israeli fans, covered her skimpy attire by donning a black leather jacket adorned with a Star of David made of silver spikes on the back.
The scariest thing in a woman’s closet? Her skinny jeans. Boooooooo. I bought my last pair of skinny jeans after I had a week-long bout of the stomach flu. I was so excited to fit into them that I didn’t care about the ridiculous price tag, or that they belonged on a tween. I was thin! I was hot! Wait- I was really hot… and... queasy…
After dating for five agonizingly frustrating years, I finally got my beshert down the aisle. The news of our engagement came as a great relief to my friends and family—my father’s actual response was: “Well, it’s about time.”
I love this photo of my baby Lindsay on her first swing ride, because if you look a little closely, you will see something amiss… look at the shoes… see it? Mommy put her shoes on the wrong feet! DOH!
As you know, traffic in our windy city really blows. Yet thousands of commuters daily opt to sit stuck in traffic behind the wheel versus taking public transportation, exacerbating the problem and costing Metra and CTA millions in lost revenue. And you want to know why?
I met “Jake” the summer between our freshman and sophomore years in college. He was tall, blond, sweet, smart, Jewish, and endearingly nerdy. He sent me flowers and made me mix tapes of cheesy love songs. We dated for five years. We talked about the future together.
Sometimes, we working moms could use a little reminder of some of the less obvious perks for working “outside the home.” Because no matter why we work (e.g., couldn’t pay the bills otherwise), how certain we are about our choices, or how happy we are with our lives, there are days when being a working mom can be rough.
Just last week, my slightly- vain 30-something husband came down the stairs wearing shorts, black socks, and yes, sandals. Being the loving wife that I am, I gently pointed out his fashion faux-pas (ok, so maybe I was on the floor laughing) only to be shocked at his complete indifference, and worse, refusal to change—or at least take off—the socks.
Last month, I went on a much-needed vacation with my hubby—our first ‘adults only’ trip since our daughter was born. It. Was. Awesome. We slept for more than 14 HOURS straight the first night. We traveled with carry-on luggage only. And for three entire days all I needed to carry was a wallet—no diapers, wipes, snacks or toys.
The #1 killer of relationships? In my opinion, the answer is holidays. Let’s face it; bringing home your significant other can be very stressful. Even in the most “normal” (and I use normal here loosely) families, there is always at least one family member who will bring up the most painfully embarrassing moments in your life in front of your s.o., or ask the most inappropriately personal questions.
The first thing that struck me upon meeting Ari Engel was just how, well, normal he looks (and, I should add, is). Standing there in jeans, t-shirt and wearing a kippah upstairs in the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, I easily could have mistaken him for any guy in town for a bachelor party, who had probably just lost his last $100 on a badly played hand of Blackjack.
I have a cradle list—a list of things that I want to do before having another child, such as spending as much 1-1 time with my daughter while I can, and taking a couple of vacations while we only have to pay for one extra seat.
The very first Valentine’s Day that I had a boyfriend to celebrate it with was a disaster—not because he failed to mark the day, but because I realized that I thought the candy and roses were silly and cheesy. In short, I realized that I think like a guy.
In many ways my older sister and I are perfect opposites. Almost seven years divide us, enough time between so that even our childhood cultural references differ. She watched different shows, wore different fashions, and listened to different music.
Look closely at the photo and you will see the only room left standing in Paul’s house, where he and his family survived the deadly twister that tore much of Joplin, Missouri apart, was just a closet.
Hi. My name is Karen Flayhart, I’m 37 years old, and I’m at camp. If hell exists, camp would be my version of it. My first Jewish camp experience began this Sunday when I arrived at camp with my husband—who is teaching at the camp the next two weeks—and our two and a half year old daughter. Unlike her mother, she loves camp.
Whether a mother stays at home with a child or works, motherhood is a tough job. As a full-time working mamma, I often feel very torn between my two jobs. And I know that I’m not alone—virtually every friend and working mom I’ve had this conversation shares this feeling.
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