Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Frummer (a Jewish Parody of “Thriller”)

A facebook friend had posted this video on his feed. I laughed my little head off, but loved the little dude with the glasses the most. Remember, it’s all in jest. One twitter buddy even wondered whether this version was scarier than the Michael Jackson version.

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Aw! Isn’t he sweet?

My oldest son just bought me a gift. I LOL’d when I saw what was printed on it. He has a great sense of humour, that one.

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To sleep, perchance to dream…

two-babies-sleeping-54sInsomnia. Defined by dictionary.com as “inability to obtain sufficient sleep, esp. when chronic; difficulty in falling or staying asleep; sleeplessness.”

There has been much talk about this subject in my household lately. I am an insomniac. I have been for years. It’s not something I am vocal about, it’s just something that I deal with. I have tried everything – medications, acupuncture, exercise, no coffee after 4pm, no coffee at all, cutting out sugar, no tv or computer after 10pm…etc. Nothing short of a blow to the head works.

My KoD, gotta love him, is bothered by my lack of sleep. He worries about my lower immunity, the potential for slower reflexes when driving, possibility of moodiness. Lack of sleep can affect so much. According to Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, lack of sleep can turn us into “emotional Jell-o”. From what I understand our brains need to have time to rest and rejuvenate in order to help us face another day at our best. Without that, our thinking and feeling is sluggish and maladapted. When I have had a particularly bad night, watch out world, because the moodiness is there. I can be irritable and easy to fly off the handle. I have had years to get used to me without sleep. I can put up with me in any mood. It’s a lot to ask of someone else.

Apparently insomnia generally starts for a specific reason – stress, anxiety, depression, pain. But when these issues have passed sometimes the insomnia sticks around because it has become a learned behaviour. Your body has become used to not sleeping, so it doesn’t do it anymore. It’s a question of breaking the cycle, which is why they prescribe sleeping meds for 7-14 days sometimes, so after a week or more of sleeping your body has readapted. Theoretically. Sleeping pills do not work for me. Maybe once or twice they will, but after that, sure, they will knock me out, but 2 hours later I am wide awake and hyper vigilant. Fail.

I have no problem falling asleep, most nights. Although, truth be told, it is much easier to fall asleep when I am snuggled in a warm pair of KoD arms, than when I am alone in my bed, but I still tend to fall asleep ok. The problem for me is staying asleep. Small noises wake me. The slamming of car doors, the revving of motorbike engines outside my window, the sound of my upstairs neighbours moving furniture at 3 am. They seem to do that often, and she likes to clop around in her wooden clogs at that hour too. If I have a vivid dream – that wakes me up with heart pounding. Getting back to sleep hardly ever happens. When the kids were babies and needed me in the middle of the night I had no problems going back to sleep. In fact there were times that I wondered whether I had really been up or not, or would wake up 10 minutes later freaked out about “omg where did I put the baby??”

But that was before I was hit with chronic pain (thankfully no longer a major factor in my life) due to herniated discs, exacerbated by 7 months of enforced bedrest during my last pregnancy. My sleep has never been the same. I am no longer in pain, no longer need to wake up to nurse babies, depression and anxiety – not an issue. Am I stressed? Hellz to the yes, who isn’t these days, but is it enough to keep me from sleeping soundly? I am no longer alone, I have the KoD with me, although not always physically, but emotionally he is with me 100%. The kids are tfu tfu BH healthy and surviving in school. I have awesome communities around me, here and in the US. The daily crises are not big ones and are easily solved. Am I worried about finances? Yes. Do I wish I actually lived with my husband? Yes. Do I worry excessively when I am up at night? No. I am not awake worrying at all. Sometimes that’s when I come up with my best ideas for blog posts and articles. I like to just follow my thoughts – being mindful. Sometimes I get lost in my imagination for hours, and it passes the night.

I do not turn on the computer or tv in the middle of the night. Even if I am not sleeping, I stay in bed and pretend to sleep. My body can rest a little bit.  Maybe it might even be fooled into thinking it slept? I do sleep better when I have exercised, but it doesn’t always work. If I go to sleep by 10, I am for sure up by 2. On the odd occasion when I sleep 6 hours, I have woken up at least twice.

So people, what cures have worked for you? I am not interested in the chemical route, and have tried valerian root, hot milk, alcohol, acupuncture etc. Help me sleep better so the KoD doesn’t have to worry anymore…

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Honour and Respect

I sent out an email to my JewCrew this morning, asking for opinions. This was the text of my email:

“I wanted to know your opinion. halacha based or not. over chag we were blessed for the first time to have a mezuman in our house. KoD was here, and I now have two barmitzvah boys. My eldest son led the mezuman the first day. He said as follows “Birshut Baal HaBayit HaZeh, ve Imi Morati baalat habayit hazeh nevarech…..”

Was he right? Should he not have said “Imi Morati baalat habayit hazeh ve’et Baalah, Baal Habayit HaZeh”? I know it may seem to be just semantics. But it was obvious he wanted to include BOTH of us.

what are your thoughts? what is the etiquette here? Is there a halachic name for a step father?”

I received some varied yet interesting responses. I refer to all by initials.

DG “OK, my Hebrew and Jewish knowledge is far from complete, but I’m assuming you are referring to the part of Birkat where one says thanks to one’s host — one way if this is your parent’s home, etc., etc., etc.

As highly as the kids think of KoD, I’m not sure Prince Number 1 is correct.  It seems this is a blessing for his father.  At the same time, there ought to be a way to express gratitude for a step parent, and this is hardly a BAD way to do so.”

HF “In my humble opinion, this is so far removed from a “real” halachik issue that he should do whatever honors you and KoD the most!”

HSM (me) “David – I was specifically talking about the beginning of the birkat hamazon – but my question I guess does include this section too. In the mezuman – you do not have to specify baal habayit etc, but my son chose to. if he chooses to do this, i want him to do it correctly.”

TH “If I understand correctly, you’re talking about when leading the benching. Technically he doesn’t need your permission because you wouldn’t lead the benching in the presence of 3 males (sorry) so just KoD’s whom he had included in baal habayis already. That being said, there is no issue with adding whomever you want. We always included my mother for the heck of it. My brother adds his wife in.”

NR “Birshut literally means “with the permission of,” and references the one who should be leading, but deferred to you…

To distinguish between those who have deferred to me, and those females who I want to honor, I have used the language “Birshut (Male who should be leading), uvichvod (other female in the room who is honored and noteworthy)…”

There is not prohibition involved here, and therefore no “wrong” so much as consistent and inconsistent with the meaning of the words…”

YM “I don’t have any knowledge to add, but I appreciate the inclusion in an interesting discussion! My husband and i disagree as to whether I should include my father (who is a non-Jew) in that section because there is some halacha about blessing non-Jews (not sure if that’s in regards to birkat hamazon or in general) but I continue to do so as he is my father, my teacher, and one of the main reasons I am who I am today physically, spiritually, etc. At least until I have a psak saying otherwise of course.”

HSM “ok so in the zimun he doesnt have to include me….but what about the harachaman? what would be the correct terminology for my sons to use? “

SH “OK, so as I understand you try to ask following questions:

1) correct ‘naming’ of KoD in zimun – this is a very specific topic,
but ‘baal a-bait a-ze’ is definitely correct usage. He is the head of
the house and regardless of how related you to him he is still baal

2) order of including you and KoD – KoD definitely goes first as
someone else said earlier that it’s male part of job to do zimun.”

TH “Baal habayit will do the job there as well, although I presume you’re looking for something more personal.”

HSM “but the thing is, he is their step dad, not just any baal habayit. is there no terminology that can be used here that denotes that?”

DB “I don’t think there’s a wrong answer so long as everyone present is satisfied.

If you don’t like “ball habayit hazeh” your son could reference KOD by
however “stepfather” is said in Hebrew and that would also be
perfectly fine.”

EF “There is no “right” or “wrong” answer.

He could say whatever he wants, or whatever you want or whatever KoD wants.

It’s pretty much freestyle for these types of things.”

MR “I completely agree – there is no “wrong” here.  In fact, in my opinion, the need to honor parents/stepparents/rabbis/etc would overcome any “procedural” objection in any case.

When I lead the zimun, I almost always try to include everyone one way or another.  At my parents house it would be “birshut avi mori, veimi morati, ve kol hamesubin …”.  As a guest, if might be “bershut baal habayit vebaalat habayit, ve kol hamesubin …”. Some people add (perhaps incorrectly) “bershut … hakohen/hakohanim/helevi/heleviim …”. Another more sticky issue is how do you directly include someone important who is NOT the baal habayit and not a parent, can you use a name?  I think yes, no reason why not.  How do you say stepfather in nice Hebrew?  Maybe “bershut …. ve-KoD my stepfather ….”?

As far as the brachot in the harachaman, I err on inclusivity and will include everyone, and their family, etc there.  It’s all mumbled anyway 🙂 and an extra bracha can never hurt.  Finally, some people, like my BIL don’t even do the harachamans at all, he and his family stops at the end of the final bracha by “al yechasrenu”.”

MY “Agree with EF, not that he needs my approval

My own history: when I turned 13 my Rabbi taught me to say Balat Hasyis as well

My father died and my mom remarried I said: Bershut HaChohen Baal Habayis hazeh vEs Ishto Imi Morati Balat Habayis Hazeh

For my Father-in-law  I say Avi Mori

I think one needs to ask permission from those who could bench in front of them: Cohen, Rabbi, Father, Head of the house.

not halachic but one should or can or may  ask from who ever would be insulted, and if insult is what is being targeted one should say what the other person wants to be called

PS the insulted party should not be so thin skinned

Good luck”

KB “In general I stay away from adding anything unless I am 100% sure of why or who I am adding, usually only if a Rav is present.

So in other words, not adding anything is perfectly acceptable because you do not create potential issues.

For those who say the men are only important, while that may be correct halachically, it is pigheaded to most women who understand what you are saying.

Kids need to learn something though, simplicity is best. Embellishments are the trappings of haughty cultures, even if you were the king, one is not on the level of Hashem and thus to ask anyone’s specific permission(when usually you have been asked already) is just being a bit over the top to me. “

RG “The best way to honor is to include everyone…“

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Speed Demon

Last time I drove down to NY I was the lucky recipient of a speeding ticket. See, it wasn’t really my fault, but then again….We were coming up on a construction zone, and I was behind a truck. I had enough space to pass him, and not be stuck behind him on a single lane highway for 25 miles. I passed him, immediately slowed down once I had gotten back in the right lane. And then the sneaky hide-a-cop pulled me over.

You have to know that I do not speed. I stick to 70 mph on the highway and am very careful. This was a construction zone in NY where there is, according to hide-a-cop, no law that limits passing speed. The cop was awfully nice to me, very polite, explaining that he totally understood that I was passing the truck before the construction zone, he DID see me slow down immediately after. So he was gonna cut me some slack and not ask for points off my license. Apparently going 65 to pass near a 55 construction zone is a big nono.

So he gave me a ticket, with the phone number of the local district attorney. Tells me that I can call the DA to get a reduction in my fine and sentence.

I just called the DA’s office – I have to get a driving abstract (not difficult to do) and send it in with a copy of my ticket, a SAE and a statement as to what happened, and I might get a reduction. Which means less of a fine, and instead of a speeding ticket, they may plead it down to a parking ticket.

I dunno. I am going to do all I can to plea it down and have to pay a reduced fee, but it just seems wrong to me. I learned my lesson. I will pay whatever they decide I should.

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What? Will these hands ne’er be clean?

beets1Beets should come with a warning label. “When peeling or handling these root vegetables wear gloves or else your hands will become stained”. It would have helped me. Big time. I prepared beets this way on Friday. I called my mum after and complained about my stained hands. Apparently everyone knows that you must wear gloves when handling beets. Mum, I love you dearly, but you missed out on teaching me that fact in the 18 years of child rearing you bestowed on me. KoD apparently knew this too, and was here, in the house, and neglected to tell me, knowing full well that I was preparing beets for the first time because he asked me to. Why did he not tell me? “Everyone knows that you must wear gloves when handling beets”. Everyone but Hadassah. No one told HSM that she must wear gloves.

Well the beets turned out delicious, I will say, and as punishment for not telling me about the staining thing I had the KoD google a way to get the stains off my hands. Soak a white piece of bread in cold water, rub hands with salt, and hold soggy white bread onto stained hands. It feels absolutely gross but it works. Apparently it works on clothes too. But I haven’t tried it.

So Mum, KoD, anyone else, is there anything else I should know that everyone else knows, or am I on par with the world now? 😉

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Could I have been wrong?

It is a reflective time of year. Reflection is good for the soul, so they say. My reflections have taken a different tack this year, due to my changed status from divorced single mom to married woman, mom of 4, step mom to 3.

I had a step mother. Now, due the some issues I have faced / am facing with my own step children I am rethinking everything about the relationship I had with her.

I was seven years old when I was first introduced to her. We had travelled to Israel to spend the summer with my father, with whom we spent a few weeks every summer. It was the only time during the year that we spent with him. We didn’t even speak on the phone in between visits. This was my normalcy. It was just the way it was since I remembered.

That summer we were introduced to her. It was a casual thing, from what I remember. No one said the “marriage” word or anything close. We all went away for a few days to a hotel – I am not sure where – all I remember is that I got sick with the mumps while we were there and while they were all out having fun and chasing snakes my grandmother nursed me back to health.

I don’t remember thinking anything negative about this woman that was hanging around. From what I recall they were not overt in their affection for each other, but that could also be that I was too young to even have it make an impression on me.

Within a year or two (my chronology is hazy because I was a kid back then…) they were all living in the states, and we came there to spend our summers. The first summer we visited them in the states they had had a baby shortly before we arrived. From what I remember, we had not been informed of nor invited to their wedding, nor had we been told there was a sibling on the way. At the time I guess it didn’t bother me, it’s not like we were all major parts of each others’ lives. But as I got older I was resentful that I hadn’t been important enough to my father for him to include me in all these changes. However, as a 9 year old I was thrilled with my baby half-brother. I changed his diapers, rocked him, totally enjoyed him. I did the same when his brother came along 4 years later.

My step mother and I, and my grandmother who lived downstairs, were the only females in a male dominated family. There was my grandfather, my dad, and my FOUR brothers. But we didn’t hang out. I preferred my grandmother’s company over everyone else’s when I couldn’t hold the baby. I felt that my step mother tolerated my presence but really wished I didn’t exist. I cannot recall any specific incident that made me think this, but that was how I thought. I am ashamed to say I hated her. I cannot put words as to why as she never did anything to me that would have hurt me. But her mere existence seemed to hurt me.

Looking at things from a different perspective now, I wonder if I had totally misjudged her. It’s too late for me to sit down with her and talk it through. She has passed on already to join my Dad in the big palace in the sky. I would love to have had the chance, as a grown up, to sit down with both of them, and talk through everything that is going through my head right now.

So, with the benefit of my newfound wisdom this is what I now think. I didn’t hate HER so much as what she represented. By marrying my father she put the final seal on my hopes and dreams for my parents to reconcile. Every child of divorce wants their parents to get back together, deep within their soul, even if they know it wouldn’t be right. But they want to be part of a nuclear family. As a “step mother who married my father so he couldn’t reconcile with my mother”, everything she said was suspect. If she asked me to make my bed, well, that’s because she was mean and wanted me to work. If she told me to eat supper like a lady, she hated me because I was the other woman in my dad’s life. If she gently told me off because I was too loud, she wished I was dead. See the pattern here? There was nothing she could have done right. I was predisposed to hate her.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, we only spent time with them once a year. So there was not really any regular contact for us to improve on our relationship. Any headway that had been made the summer before disappeared and we were back at square one the following summer. It had never occurred to me that she might have wanted a relationship with me. To be an important figure in my life. I just thought she would rather me out of her life completely. I thought that if she wanted me as part of her life she would have encouraged my father to be in regular contact with us, to see us more often. I saw it as her fault that he didn’t call us. In hindsight, yes, my father could have made a lot more effort – maybe she did encourage him, and he ignored her? Who’s to know?

I am sure I said many mean and hurtful things to her, teenaged girls can be vindictive and cruel. I never gave her a chance. When my father died in 1993, we all sat shiva at their house in Monsey. (yes, small world) I didn’t give one moment of thought to the hell that she was going through, having lost her husband. I had lost my father, a man I barely knew. I was 19 and life sucked. Big time. My half brothers were young at the time, not yet barmitzvah, and my heart hurt for them. I looked at my grandparents and saw their pain and sorrow at having to bury their only child way before his time – and my heart broke for them. For her? I couldn’t have cared less about her pain. I am sure some part of me blamed her for his death, which obviously is totally nonsensical.

I am by nature a caring person. I cry for people who are hurting, I feel their pain and suffering. Yet to this one person, my step mother, I was cold. Growing up I told myself it was because she hated me, so I was just giving it back to her. Now looking back on it I cringe. How could I have been so cruel and mean and just plain hateful? Her only sin was that she existed. She could have been the sweetest gentlest person in the world, cooked and baked and been a mix between Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker and Mary Poppins, and I still would have hated her. I never took the time to get to know her as a person, and that I will regret for the rest of my days. I should have been happy that my father found himself a second chance, someone that he could potentially grow old with, though, sadly, neither of them had the chance to grow old. But that is a mature attitude, and I was a kid.

This year I pray that I can start somehow to develop some kind of bond with all my step children. I love their father so much – he is the air that I breathe. He is so necessary to my every day life. His kids are an extension of him, and I love them too. I want so much to have a decent relationship with them – I don’t want to be their mother, they have one who loves them very much, but I don’t want to be their friend either – I do have a parental position. There are house rules, for all the kids. How does one find the right balance without over stepping boundaries? I know it will take time and a lot of effort and frustration and major patience from me and the KoD but I am up for the challenge. I don’t want my step children to have the same regrets that I do, 20 years from now and I don’t want them to hate me just because I exist.

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Shana Tovah

Rosh Hashannah has been and gone. I have been busier than anything with all the preparations. I have a few blog posts waiting to be born. Hopefully soon. Right now, I am bidding au revoir to the KoD who was with us for the holiday. He leaves momentarily back to Monsey with my heart firmly tucked in his shirt pocket.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah!

While you are here, why don’t you check out Tips for an Easier Fast – written by the KoD himself, who is a registered dietitian with many years of experience.

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