I’m not particularly proud of it, but this is what I did for Chanukah. Strike that. This was my attempt to make Chanukah as cool as Christmas.
I happened upon a Facebook post about a couple who told their kids each year that, once a year, their toys woke up for the night to have a party. The kids eagerly anticipated seeing the party aftermath in the morning. Cue the lesson on wonderment and imagination.
"Bee would go crazy for this," I thought to myself, and the light bulb went on.
This year, despite being more than a month ahead of Christmas, Chanukah already has taken a backseat to Christmas movies, Christmas books, Christmas clothes, and Christmas events. My rational side says, “What’s the big deal? Chanukah is a minor holiday, and really, you can’t compete with Christmas (or at least, you really shouldn’t want to, you Scrooge). It’s part of American culture. Find a way to enjoy Chanukah for what it is, and let it go.”
The other side of my brain said, “Tell Bee that Chanukah is the dinosaurs’ favorite holiday, and that they wake up on each of the eight nights to have a party!”
Genius? Petty and pathetic? Perhaps both.
Reasons my idea was genius:
1. Bee was SO EXCITED for Chanukah.
2. Bee was SO EXCITED for Chanukah.
3. Bee was SO EXCITED for Chanukah.
Reasons my idea was petty and pathetic:
1. Dinosaurs have nothing to do with Chanukah, which means Bee was SO EXCITED for dinosaurs, not Chanukah, if I’m being honest with myself.
2. I get on my high horse about not feeling the need to compete with Christmas, yet the first time my child tells me he likes Christmas best of all and that it’s his favorite “season,” I’m the first one scrambling to make Chanukah cooler.
3. I dislike most things that attempt to make Chanukah more Christmas-y (like this and this). They feel inauthentic, like we’re saying to our kids, “Oh, sorry you’re Jewish and you can’t have a Christmas tree … decorate this bush instead.” The dinosaurs on Chanukah? Did nothing to enrich my son’s actual Chanukah experience.
I genuinely like Christmas, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with my son liking it, too. It’s part of his heritage and history, and frankly, it’s a ridiculous bonanza of happiness. Really, what’s not to like? I guess I’m just frustrated that the Jewish holidays, while full of meaning and rich history and tradition, don’t deliver quite the punch that their Christian counterparts deliver.
I love being Jewish, and I want my sons to feel the same way. Perhaps the way to go about this isn’t forcing T-Rex and triceratops into our Chanukah celebration, but rather modeling a happy Jewish life for them, a Jewish life that’s filled with delicious food that we cook together, pizza Shabbats with our beloved friends, giving back to our community together and holidays celebrated with precious family – including Christmas.
For the record, though, Bee’s reaction to the dinos was priceless, and we will definitely be repeating the exercise at some point next year (though maybe not for eight nights - how many places can we possibly come up with to set up 45 dinosaurs?).
I am writing this with glue on my fingers.
I know what you’re thinking – is this a complex, deep, meaningful metaphor for the meaning of life? Also, WTF?
To answer your first question, no, it is not. Sorry if that disappoints. If you want to turn it into a complex, deep, meaningful metaphor for the meaning of life, by all means, go ahead, and please let me know what you come up with. It is actually very literal, and it is also a very sticky situation. (I know, I know … but I couldn’t not say that.) And actually, it has dried a little bit so it’s slightly less gross than it sounds.
In response to your second question, the reason I have glue on my fingers is because a very smart friend told me to put glue on my fingers. Not because I’m doing an art project or anything like that. (But you know what’s fun? Mixing glue and shaving cream and painting with it. Trust me on this.) While I generally disapprove of peer pressure, I think this is a good idea my friend came up with, though she might need to buy me a new keyboard pretty soon because this can’t be good for it.
When I feel anxious, a lot of things happen. I talk too fast. My face gets red. And, I noticed recently – I scratch my head. Just a quick, innocent little scratch, only there isn’t really anything there that’s itchy. Although this might not seem like a huge deal, you ladies (and long-haired gentlemen) out there are well aware that when you touch your head too much, your hair becomes greasy and gross. And frankly, it’s not cute. I miss having cute hair and I think it misses me too. We used to have such good times together.
As anyone who’s ever tried to kick a habit knows, breaking one is a lot easier said than done. Intellectually, I know that I have a bad habit. I know that I would no longer like to have said bad habit. I know that said bad habit is really awkward and makes people think I have lice when I don’t. However, in that anxiety-ridden moment, such as when I have everything I need to make chocolate cake except the chocolate (and the cake) or even right now, at this coffee shop, when I’m trying to write this incredibly amazing blog post – it’s almost like there’s this robot dude in my arm who reaches up to my head and scratches the crap out of it without me realizing until it’s too late. And dude needs to stop, hence the glue. Even a sneaky nonexistent robot dude is not going to run sticky fingers through my hair. Even nonexistent robot dudes have their limits, you know?
Breaking a habit is hard. It’s unnerving. It causes anxiety, which really sucks if you’re like me trying to stop doing the thing you do when you get anxious. I think it’s important to focus on the end goal, though, and how glorious it will be when you don’t do whatever it is any more. After all, life is too short to have hair that is anything less than adorable.
Mazel Tov to Brad Ausmus!
Former Jewish Major League Baseball player Brad Ausmus was tagged to replace Jim Leyland as the new manager of the Detroit Tigers. Ausmus inherits a mega lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and ace pitchers in Justin Verlander and 2013 American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. The Tigers even recently acquired Jewish second baseman Ian Kinsler (talk about beshert!) Now if only Lawrence Frank could get back into a head coaching spot we'd have a Jewish coach/manager in all three major sports (Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman is Jewish).
Mazel Tov to Craig Breslow, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish!
Mazel tov to the Boston Red Sox for winning the World Series! Only Breslow was on the World Series roster, but I believe Lavarnway will receive a ring for his playing time during the season. Kalish did not appear this season for the BoSox due to injury. Breslow was the 24th Jewish ballplayer to play in the World Series.
Mazel Tov to Craig Breslow and Ian Kinsler!
Breslow was also this year’s recipient of the Sandy Koufax Award given to MLB’s best Jewish pitcher by TheGreatRabbino.com. Breslow was 5-2 with a 1.94 ERA. He struck out 32 batters in 52 innings. This is Breslow's third time winning the award (second in a row). Honorable mentions: Scott Feldman and Jason Marquis. Ian Kinsler won the Hank Greenberg Award for best Jewish MLB hitter; Kinsler hit .277 with 13 HRs and 31 doubles. He also compiled 15 stolen bases for a Rangers team in the thick of the playoff hunt throughout the season. Ryan Braun has won the award the last three seasons and Kevin Youkilis was the inaugural winner. Honorable mentions: Josh Satin, Nate Freiman, and Ryan Braun.
Other Mazel Tovs
On Nov. 1 the NBA saw its first matchup between two Israeli born players. Omri Casspi of the Houston Rockets took on cross state rival the Dallas Mavericks and rookie Gal Mekel. This was an amazing moment for Jewish basketball and the country of Israel.
Meanwhile, in the NFL, brothers Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs) and Mitchell Schwartz (Cleveland Browns) met for the first time on Oct. 27. Geoff and the Chiefs were victorious.
Just like the notion
that there are two sides to every story, there are four sides to every dreidel.
Over the years I have found myself associating the sides of that little dreidel
(made out of recycled plastics) with memories of the past and the present along
with thoughts about identity and perseverance
Let's face it – playing
dreidel is probably the closest thing to ancient kosher gambling. It takes
skill and savvy, and that little kiss that you blow onto the dreidel cupped in
your hands can make all the difference between a gimmel (getting all the pot) and
a nun (getting nothing). I was enamored with the official game and would play
it all the time in my Hebrew School days. My friends and I would have contests
to see whose dreidel would spin the longest (I think my record was 45 seconds).
Around fifth or sixth grade the game became pretty lame, but I was back to
the dreidel circuit during my college years, though that's a whole other story.
My kids (ages 14, 11,
7) are big fans of this seasonal game of chance. Although they have mastered
the art of the upside-down spin, it’s the access to parent-sanctioned candy
that keeps them playing the game year after year. In fact, they will keep
playing it through the winter and into the spring. I'm guessing it’s the chocolate
coins that keeps them playing and not the feeling of being historically
connected to our ancestors who played the game when Greek soldiers would pass by.
I think the dreidel is
one of the best Jewish symbols ever. Its size and function impart valuable lessons. I
identify and navigate through many different social (and social media) circles during
the day. A dreidel is small enough that if I were to put it in my pocket for a
day, I think it would remind me that there’s another circle that I’m
intrinsically part of.
No matter how many
times we spin the dreidel it will always fall down on one of four sides. The
outcomes are often this way in life. Sometimes we gain everything we want and
sometimes we gain nothing. Sometimes we have to compromise and give up our half
of what we want and sometimes we all have to pitch in a little of what we have
for the greater good. Regardless of what side out dreidel lands on, we can
always pick up the dreidel – and ourselves – so that we can continue trying to
win the game.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Phew, we got that out of the way.
I'm thankful for so much. It's been a year full of so, so much change. You know that old cliché/John Lennon lyric, "life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans?" For the first time in a while, I thought my ducks were in a row. But breakups happen, unforeseen challenges arise, so on and so on. So let's let life happen. For better, for worse, for the sake of feigning a positive attitude until things settle down a bit in my little world – I'm thankful for it all.
But that's not what I want to write about. I want to write about writing. Feel free to read a previous Oy entry about my coy, difficult, ultimately wonderful love affair with writing. An article about writing again, you say? Well, this is different. I promise you.
In the spirit of letting go of the old and creating something new, I had lofty goals for November. November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Some people want to run marathons. I wanted to write a novel. Sigh, just the structure of that last sentence gives off the stench of defeat. Yeah, I didn't write a novel. But I wrote nearly 20,000 words. That's something, aye?
The concept of NaNoWriMo is perfect for the most fledgling of writers (aka, me): spill out 50,000 words from the recesses of your mind. That's it. Commit pen to paper, tablet, laptop, your recorder of choice. Editing is for later. Discerning judgment is for later.
I came to into November with a few loosely connected ideas that I wanted to shine up into a real-live story. I signed up on the site (NaNoWriMo.org), I received encouraging emails. In a word, I was pumped.
My favorite part of the process? Discussing possible plots and story ideas with my family. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. I uncovered my father's secret ambitions to write a spy novel...who knew? My mother's ideas for a Disney-ish fairy tale were more imaginative than anything I conjured up. I soaked it all in and as November reared its head, I sat down to write.
These emails I spoke of? Many of them consist of pep talks. Based on past and current professional experience, I'm used to writing every day, and if not every day, on a pretty consistent basis. However, committing to 1,500-plus words a day, after getting home from my communications-based 9-to-5? Call me lazy, call me whatever you want; I lasted about a week until I decided that writing a novel in a month might not be in the cards, at least not this November.
Maybe I'll train better next year. At a recent get-together, a friend brought up that her boyfriend was taking on the NaNoWriMo beast this year. I implored further: Does he have a story? What got him into it? She relayed enthusiastically that this was the first year he really decided to get serious about it. He bought a special notebook to plot out his novel ahead of time. All bases were covered. I squirmed when she told me after the first week that he inexplicably lost about 2500 words. Technology! Strangely enough, I felt a part of this community, even though I was taking a more languorous approach to novel writing. I may never get there. But the idea of it, of continually turning to my ongoing story and adding a little something new, keeps the fires of one my greatest passions alive.
My childhood friend Steph always refers to less-than-ideal, kooky life events as "writing material." Reflecting on this past year and everything that makes me grateful (and everything that makes me cringe), I've tried my best to fill it with "writing material" moments with people I love, adore and enjoy.
Happy Thanksgivukkah, everyone!
I cannot believe I am writing about this right now. I cannot believe it. As I went to bed Friday night the diehard fan in me was trying to stay positive, but I knew better than to put myself through that again after the drama of last season. And a year and a half later, we’re right back where we started with Derrick Rose. And now all we have are questions. Where do we go from here? Will Derrick Rose ever be the same again? And I’m at a loss. I’m trying to see the bigger picture here, but it’s really hard to see an alternative to taking this opportunity to blow the team up and start over.
Look at it this way – Deng and Noah are good pieces, good role players and good teammates. But they cannot be the best players on a great team. Both are injury prone as well, and with both guys likely looking at an increase in minutes with Rose out, the injury bug is bound to hit them at points this year as well. I love both players and have loved watching everything they’ve done for the Bulls, but with Rose’s future up in the air, their value for the Bulls drops significantly the longer they hang onto them. And as we’ve seen over the years, the Bulls tend to over love their role players and hang on to them far too long until their trade value has plummeted. Time to do what Bulls management has never been able to do – take the risk and have a fire sale. Now is the time.
Last year we got strung along with the hope and flat out expectation that Rose would return during the season. And that kept me watching because the Bulls overcame the adversity and played well enough that, in the event Rose did come back, they could make a real run in the playoffs. And let’s remember – last year’s team was built with weapons to win for as long as they needed without Rose.
Not the case with this year’s team. So the Bulls came right out yesterday morning and said he is lost for the year. And after two knee surgeries, will he ever be the same again? I can’t help but get glimpses of Grant Hill – a big star with a high ceiling coming out of college, co-rookie of the year, all-star – but after so many injuries and surgeries he never lived up. He had a solid career, but imagine what could have been. I fear this is the case for Rose.
You can’t help but feel bad for the guy. He does not deserve this. And after the Bulls built their whole team and long-term future around Rose, it may be time to think about moving on. So where does that start? It starts with trading their valuable assets while they still have value. That means Noah and Deng. Get value for both of them, try to trade Boozer’s contract if they can but the more likely case is they wait and amnesty him after the season is over. I’d love to keep Butler and Gibson through all of this, but if they can get good value for them, I say go for it. But what they CANNOT do is stand pat and say they will wait for Rose to return and make another run with this team next year. That will not happen and it will be a waste of another year and they will likely lose Deng for nothing in the meantime. Derrick Rose may never be the same again, as sad as this is to say. And if he is even close, he’ll need better players being developed around him anyway.
We thought this could be it – the Bulls finally a title contender for the first time since the Jordan era. But hope for that is gone. Who knows what could have been. Many picked the Bulls to win it all this year with Rose back. But would they ever have been good enough to beat Miami during the Big 3 era even with a healthy Rose? We’ll never find out now and we’ll be therefore robbed of a lot of great basketball between the two teams. But the Bulls need to be honest about who they are now. They are not contenders anymore. Their chance with this core is done. It’s time to move on. They can make some really smart moves now with the value they can get for some of their assets – and along with the Bobcats 2016 unprotected pick, the potential of Mirotic coming over, and Rose returning at all, they have a good shot at rebuilding sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, the Bulls are going to be very, very tough to watch.
The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad question came over a dinner of noodles, salad and miso soup. The question I’d dreaded ever since I’d become a parent.
“Did you hate school?”
Oof. For others, the dreaded talk is the Sex 101 chat. Been there done that. No sweat. But the school question, that’s my Achilles heel.
“I didn’t hate school. Not exactly. I had trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
And here’s where my true dilemma begins. What to say? How much? Do they really want to know? And if I tell them the truth, will they become who I was back then? Kein ahora…
I’d say I was the average student until about fifth grade. Then math became impossible. I cheated off of friends to get by. Eventually, at the most awkward developmental stage ever, (boobs and boys), I was diagnosed with a learning disability. For some reason, (while also giving me a massive sense of relief that I wasn’t a total idiot), this realization seemed to give me license to act out. Like I had been dealt an unfair deck and to right the injustice, I was going to be an asshole.
When high school came along, I was looking for and open to all kinds of trouble. It wasn’t too hard to find. It translated into detentions, in-school suspensions and spending more than a few Saturday mornings surrounded by thugs, druggies and kids on the verge of being kicked out of school. (But not The Breakfast Club types – there were no Emilio Estevezes or Judd Nelsons, unfortunately.) I didn’t fall into any of those particular groups, but I was ditching classes, not completing my work, opening up a mouth with teachers, and hanging out with “bad boys.” I was doing just enough to be considered “on the fringe.”
My parents were paying attention. Their attentiveness resulted in my leaving high school when I was 16. They found a tiny, tiny college (50 students. No joke) with an adjunct program for high school students. I was a fit for the school because I had pretty decent reading and writing skills. It was a fit for me because it gave me a small and personalized learning environment. This was a tremendous confidence boost to be accepted into a college when I was barely meeting the requirements to pass high school. So I bit. I left my friends, my family and my boyfriend behind, fingers and toes crossed that I wouldn’t be a total and utter failure.
So I ended up having a very non-traditional scholastic experience. The quick catch-up is I went to college at the age of 16. After two years of earning college credits, I took my GED, which was untimed thanks to my LD. At 18, I transferred to another small liberal arts college out east. (May it rest in peace – it was a victim of both the economy and my not sending in my alumni donation check.) I decided to stay an extra semester to take a job as a resident advisor and actually, (finally) attended a true graduation for myself. Psychology degree in my proud hand, I went to Israel for a year, got all Jewish and stuff, and then came back for my Master’s degree in Counseling.
On paper that all looks pretty good, impressive even. On paper, I can gloss over all the ugly parts. It leaves out that middle school and high school were hard and embarrassing and not fun at all. No adult in school took an interest or notice in me with the exception of my freshman dean who had a “Come to Moses” talk with me. I deeply appreciated that. I still do. But he couldn’t save me. I had to get out. And so, thankfully, I did.
But back to now. Present day. All eyes on me, excited for mom to elaborate on her “trouble.” Truly, I could tell them anything. They would never know the difference. Harvard grad! Model student! Housed the homeless! But that’s not honest. And with all my self-doubt and second guessing of myself as a mom, I do believe strongly in being truthful with my kids. So, I’m telling them. Because even though they are a product of me and being raised by me, they aren’t me. And my telling them stories about me and how I struggled won’t suddenly “poof !” them into my past life. It won’t unduly influence them into making the same choices I did or burden them with my same struggles.
And it’s also a bonus in the burbs to have a mom with a little street cred.
Sites We Like
Castle Chicago, 632 N Dearborn St
Tuesday, December 24 | 8 p.m. - 4 a.m.
It's Christmas Eve, what else are you going to do? The groups that brought you the best Xmas Eve Parties in Chicago over the past 10 years have finally teamed up for one huge event: The Official Matzo Bash 2013 - The Chosen Knight.
BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE: http://matzobash-juf.eventbrite.com
Every time a ticket is purchased from this link, $5 will be donated to the JUF!
Projects run from November 17, 2013 - January 5, 2014.
Give thanks by giving back this holiday season and volunteer through TOV's Winter Mitzvah Mania. Sign up today!