Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Friend Quest

While once upon a time I used to rail against the evils of smartphones (not in a frum capacity, but rather as constant distractions and time wasters), I've turned to the dark side. I just need something to keep me awake when I'm feeding a baby at 1a.m.

I like mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram for this. It's the right level of non-awakening stimulation to get the job done. 

I belong to a number of groups on Facebook. A recurring thing in one of them is about how difficult it is to make friends. The poster has actually tried to by joining chessed activities and such, but nothing's happening. 

I'm also in that situation. Well, I currently do have one friend, who was also on a search for a friend herself. Fortuitously, we bumped into each other, made a point to put out some chatty feelers, and it worked. We meet up usually once a week. That was after weeks, nay, months, more like years, of failed connection attempts. 

But I'm concerned about the fragility of the relationship only in terms of possible relocation. She's trying to find a house for her growing family, and is looking out of state. Once she leaves, we'll both be back at square one unless she moves near someone she knows. 

I try to be open, make small talk in the park (although it's usually babysitters, not mothers), and while they smile politely, maybe chat back, it usually stalls there. Twice I met lovely women in the park, and hoped to take it further, but twice I fumbled the ball. I haven't seen them there again. 

Sigh. 

It's hard making new friends. What people don't realize is that many people have that same challenge, when they walk past each other on the street. 

It's also not enough just to meet someone new; you have to have the right chemistry. Some people may just not get your humor, for instance, or may be so consumed with her own insecurities that she cannot be present for you. In my case, I'd rather not have a friend than deal with drama. 

Whenever I've tried to make a friend, it usually is a fail. Expending effort and seeing no return is demoralizing, and frankly after ten years of dating I am done with that. 

So what I do now is try to be open. That is it. I smile if I can. I'll reciprocate conversation if it is offered. And if I feel as though the other party is on the same page, well, there you go. 

Maybe one day, if the Lord is kind, Ben will come home with a new friend who has a great mother.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Know Thy Limits

My sister and I were discussing boundaries. Not necessarily between ourselves, but the concept, and its importance. 

I noted that boundaries are also different from person to person. What I find difficult, for instance, is simple for someone else, and vice versa. 

For example, when I was still in elementary and high school, Ma HATED to have to take me there or fetch me home. She HATED it. I don't know why. If it was mid-term season, there was NO WAY she was going to come pick me up, even if I would have to wait around school for another four hours for the bus. I sheepishly asked for rides home instead.  

If she ever HAD to take me, like if the bus didn't show, she grumbled and complained the whole trip as though it was my fault. 

I never found out why she hated it so much. But she was entitled. We all have tasks that we'd rather not do.

It has become my gauge that when deciding whether to do something or not, I think, will I be resentful for doing this? 

For instance, in my teen and single years I was called upon to babysit the kinfauna. A lot. And I usually didn't mind. No one even asked me; they called Ma and she said I would. 

But one time, I had a bad cold. You know how colds can be; innocent, but you feel like death and just want to sleep in your own bed after glugging down some Nyquil. Additionally, I was in college and had two finals the next morning. For the first time ever, I nervously called up the sibling in question and said I couldn't come. They were shocked, and annoyed. They eventually understood. I think. 

In recent years, there is another factor: Will this make me more impatient with Ben?

Ben's school PTA posted a bake sale right before Shavuos, and asked people to contribute their homemade yummies. Initially I was excited; I like to bake! Then I stopped myself. I couldn't bake for the sale. It was two days before yuntif, I still had to do my food shopping/cooking, and with two littles, it takes twice as long. I didn't have time to bake something, fuss over it with glazes and such, and then drop it off to boot. 

So even though I wanted to, I didn't do it. For the sake of my family I must take on only what I can handle at this current life stage. One day I'll be able to leisurely bake for the PTA. But not now.  

Now, my job is to stay somewhat operational.  

Don't Put On a Happy Face

While I have gotten somewhat used to the sleep deprivation, there are some days I'm so wiped I can barely walk. Throw in some humidity, some blazing sun, and I'm just about to keel over. 

I picked up Ben from school, and true to our routine, took him to the park (I hate the park. There's no shade). That done, I was trudging home, pushing the double stroller. I was so tired that my eyes closed and I took I few blissful steps half asleep. 

I was jolted out of my stupor as a neighbor bellowed from his car, "Smile, Mommy!" as he drove by. 

If I had the energy, I would have howled and leapt for his throat. 

The next day, he met Han in the gym, and began to lecture him. "I saw your wife yesterday, and she looked absolutely miserable. How can she be miserable when she's so lucky, she's a mother!?" 

Han explained I had had a rather rough night with Anakin, but he kept at it. I am not allowed to ever be looking unhappy because I, thank God, have children, despite being geriatric. 

This neighbor can be rather clueless, so I don't expect much from him. But this anecdote serves to illustrate the concept of "toxic positivity," also known as "spiritual bypassing." It's the idea that any sort of negativity in life can be overcome by simply focusing on the good. 

One meme I've found annoying is one that insists that we all must be suffused with gratitude because we have working limbs. Meaning, I am never allowed to be upset about anything because I can walk. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy I can walk. I'm very happy I can talk. I'm very happy about a bazillion things in my life. But Judaism permits holding two opposing emotions at once. It is not a contradiction. I can be happy to be a mother, but I can also be miserably exhausted and resent being awoken six times in one night. 

I made this mistake when Ma died. I thought I was being noble, and frum, by telling myself that I accept Hashem's will, so I'm fine! So fine! Until a year later when I found myself crying while making supper. She has been dead for five years, and while I can accept Hashem's will I am still very very sad. I am surprised how sad I can be. Contrary to popular sayings, time doesn't heal all wounds. 

I've been following a lot of parenting gurus, and one message they repeatedly intone is to teach children that all feelings are okay, but all behavior is not. 

We are able to feel many emotions at once. Those feelings must be processed, not denied. 

(BTW, most people don't walk down the street smiling to themselves. That makes you look like a serial killer.)

Monday, June 13, 2022

What is the End Game?

Everything is relative, is it not? 

After marrying at our decrepit ages, Han and I are surprised to hear parents panic over their single 19-year-olds. That's still a thing? 

Han is actually, well, insulted when he hears the terror in the voices of relatives, fretting over their unwed not-yet-of-legal-drinking-age offspring. 

"Don't they see how well it worked for us?" he asked me, flabbergasted. "Don't they realize that while the wait couldn't be helped, it was worth it?" 

"Oh, my sweet idiot," I said condescendingly, patting his arm, "no." 

No one is asking our advice about launching their children into the dating realm. Because we messed up, you see. 

There could have been a confluence of factors. Perhaps our profiles didn't show us to our best advantage. Maybe we didn't consult the "right" shadchanim. Obviously, we were too picky, until we saw some sense and made the choice to "settle." 

We are the cautionary tale, not the inspiration. Sorry, Han.

I bumped into my niece's friend, who laughed how her 21-year-old sister is freaking over her singlehood. Especially considering how their parents wedded at a later age than Han and I. 

"She should be enjoying herself!" I said. "She should be doing things! Because soon," I gestured towards my burbling Anakin (yes, I'm going with Anakin, it's canon), "she won't be able to do ANYTHING. And she'll miss that time." 

I know of a gal who was shocked to find herself "still" single at 22. She married, happily, at 23. At 24, holding her bouncing baby, she finds herself hit by that proverbial Mack Truck. "I'm supposed to be up every two hours all night?!" Then: "I'm glad I didn't get married when I was 19!" 

The whole screaming infant part isn't exactly advertised in the brochure. A baby in theory is very different than a baby in practice. Even the really good ones don't let you go to the bathroom as often as their mothers would like. 

I have my moments when I sing to myself one of Ma's favorite sayings: "I'm gonna run away from home." The second time around, I'm used to the sleep deprivation, but Ben's adjustment to a new interloper was a real doozy. Then there are all those cheerful people who tell me having three is even harder, because then Han and I will be outnumbered. 

My point is this: motherhood is hard. It shouldn't be taken on lightly. 

Next: I've been hearing too many stories about young couples on the rocks. A few have lead to divorce. Which makes me sad. I know "they" say that marriage is work, but that doesn't mean it's never fun. Why else would anyone marry? There are "projects" out there that urge earlier marriages to circumvent singles, but what about the divorces? 

In today's times, younger marriages can be catastrophic. And yet these . . . children are being harried into early couplehood. That's meant for life.  

I recently came across this blog post, and when I mentioned it to Han he said that while men are allowed to nix a shidduch due to "attraction," it is considered an unimportant expectation from women. Here's the tip: if engagement is in the conversation, you both should be excited to spend time with each other.

Han and I were not willing to settle. Baruch Hashem, our parents understood and supported us, even though they found it difficult to watch us stay single. Because they also wanted us to be happy. 

Do we want our children to be happily married? Or just married? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Yet Another Hiatus

Yes, I have vanished—again—thankfully for a good, yet exhausting, reason: Ben is now a (shocked) brother. The infant's arrival kind of threw him for a loop, and I don't blame him. Heck, I'm youngest, and it was great for the most part. So I feel rather guilty. 

But this will—again—put a but of a crimp on my blogging. Back to being a sporadic poster. 

 

Monday, February 7, 2022

An Ideal Shabbos

I've always thought that when it comes to some things I'm rather mellow (to others, I'm a friggin' nutcase). Like hosting guests for Shabbos. I'm the first one to say that people just want to enjoy the company of other people, and don't give a hoot about the food. 

But in actuality, I obsess over the menu. For days beforehand, my dreams are haunted by warring sidedishes: quinoa vs. roasted veggies vs. kugel. Do I need to make fish? Should I make chicken legs or chicken cutlets? Legs taste better but are messier to eat. Should I just stick to the white meat? Should I make individual lava cakes in ramekins or just plate a square of brownie? Do I have enough Trader Joe's pareve ice cream?

Obviously, hosting stresses me out so much I've barely done it. 

Then I came across this Vogue article by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt. As a rebbetzin, she's certainly under more pressure than I am to put on a stunning meal - every week. 

Having emerged from the pandemic, she is eager for social interactions, and instead of being tethered to the kitchen and a multitude of courses, she serves one course, and can actually partake in the conversation. 

I like this idea. But I know I am unable to model it. Currently, I do not make fish for Han and I since he hates it (one course off the menu) but if guests come, I feel compelled to serve it. Han lives for chicken soup, so that's staying (but I make a massive potful every few months and defrost as I go, so that's not hard). Then there's the main, sides, dessert, obsessing while I sleep . . . 

All the while knowing that consuming a four course meal leaves me unpleasantly stuffed and munching on Tums the whole night. 

Some programming is difficult to realign.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Shtisel Observations

 I've been rewatching Shtisel. The first time I saw it was after Han and I married, before it was on Netflix. Han bought the DVDs, and we slowly enjoyed it, the one show we watched together. We enjoyed it at such a sluggish pace that halfway through it hit Netflix. 

Now, I'm binging. My memory sucks in general and I have very little recall as to the plot. 

But the whole time that I savor, I still have some complaints. *SPOILERS ahead*

One of the basic positives of observant life is family. Emphasis is placed on young marriage and parenthood. Shulem says in the show that he has six children, and five are married. There's a lot of people there to have your back. 

The show opens with the matriarch, Devorah, as having recently passed. I can personally attest that such a death leaves a mark in the family. But one thing is for sure, Shulem and Akive would be having dinner or Shabbos by one of the other children's houses at some point. Instead, Shulem is dining alone, or hopefully visiting the homes of various widows or divorcees for a hot supper.  

Even later, when Giti has her own restaurant, Shulem is still sadly on the search for a decent dinner. C'mon, people.

Additionally, when Lippe vanishes, Giti does not ask for her family's help at all. Even though Kive is unmarried and currently unoccupied (broodily chain smoking on the balcony is not a valid activity), she never calls upon him for help with her five kids. Instead, Ruchami is appointed the sole caregiver while Giti works. 

While we know Giti was terrified of the community finding out and becoming an object of pity, her father would definitely be the one person she could definitely rely on to keep her secret. 

Instead, she struggles alone, in terror, trying desperately to support her family. While she didn't have to accept her father's money, she could have accepted other forms of help—emotional support, babysitting.  

As a side point: What do the writers of the show have against women? They're either dead or dying or near death. Devorah is dead; Bubbe falls down the stairs, recovers, then dies; Rebbetzin Ehrblich, my favorite character, commits suicide; initially, Nuchem's wife is unseen, but alive, but then is also dead; Libbe mysteriously dies two months after having a baby; Ruchami almost dies in childbirth. At least kill them off in more original ways. 

The show does a great job of showing that observant women are not oppressed, that they are strong, capable, and respected. So why are they all dead?

Monday, January 17, 2022

Fathers Are Also Parents

I was scheduling a doctor's appointment, and the only time that was available was after Ben's school hours. "I'll have to see if my husband can babysit," I said automatically. 

I paused. "No," I corrected myself,"if he can parent." 

As Ali Wong observed in her Netflix special Baby Cobra

It takes so little to be considered a great dad, and it also takes so little to be considered a ****ty mom. . . People praise my husband for coming to all of my doctor’s appointments with me.

Guess who else has to go to those doctor’s appointments? Me! I’m the star of the show. There’s nothing for the camera to see if I’m not there, but he’s the hero for playing Candy Crush while I get my blood drawn!

On one of the online groups I belong to, a new mother posted, saying that she wants to do something nice for her husband as he's been "so helpful" since the baby was born, so understanding that she can't give him as much attention as before. 

Whaaaaat? The baby is not some random interloper in his life, it's got 50% of his DNA! IT'S HIS CHILD! Of course he should be freakin' helpful, he's the baby's PARENT! 

A local paper used to feature a sort of "Ask Abby" column. This was years ago, but one question and answer has stuck with me. A woman was writing that her husband works very hard, he has two jobs, while she is at home with the kids. But she still needs help at times. 

The columnist responded that there is a difference between housework and parenting. Anything that is parenting he should help with. So cleaning the kitchen shouldn't be his problem, but bathing the kids and putting them to sleep is.

Because news flash: fathers are PARENTS too. 

Mishpacha had a short story a few weeks ago, and while this wasn't the point of the story, a couple of sentences really irritated me. 

The protagonist was 7 months pregnant, and was technically on light bed rest. But she has three other little kids, so that's not exactly realistic. Her husband comes home, and she "guiltily" confesses to cramping, at which point he tells her to lie down and puts the kids to bed:

He's an angel, my husband. And concerned about my health, and our unborn baby's. 

Putting the kids to sleep does not make a father "angelic." He's being a PARENT. If he came home and let her huff and puff with the kids when she should be lying down, that would make him a jerk. It's not "angelic" to care about your wife and children! It would mean he would be a sociopath if he didn't! (BTW, his "angelic" help wasn't enough, as she goes into premature labor that night.)

The bar shouldn't be so low.

I started watching Bosch, a detective series on Prime. There is the side plot of Bosch's personal life: he shares a daughter with his ex-wife, who is remarried. She was living overseas for the past few years, but now is back in the States. Their daughter is now 14. 

The daughter is a passenger when her friend, a minor, gets in a car accident. She's fine, but Bosch tells off his ex-wife as though their child is her responsibility only, which she rightfully shuts down. 

When their daughter hops a bus to visit him (the distance is not close) without telling her mother, Bosch is waiting for her by the station. Her mother flies in that night to retrieve her. 

"Thanks, Harry," she tells him when she arrives. 

"What for?" he replies. "She's our daughter." 

YES. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mask+Lipstick=FAIL

There was an article about lipstick that lasts under a face mask, and so, excited at the prospect, I purchased two. 

Both were of a style I don't particularly like—liquid lipstick that is applied with an applicator. 

This format has never worked for me. Invariably, there is a blob of product at the end of the wand, which means more ends up in some areas, less in others. Because of this heavy application, it tends to end up outside the environs of my strategically placed lip pencil. 

Meaning, the results don't look very . . . polished. More like an amateur. 

But hey, more than one article recommended them, so I decided to try again. I bought one by Fenty and one by Sephora Collection (there was a sale, you see). 

The Fenty one was not the right shade—too dark—but I decided to wear it anyway under a mask to see what would happen. The only clean one available that day was rather small and hugged my face. Which meant the lipstick went EVERYWHERE. I looked like Nolan's Joker, and I spent five solid minutes attempting to mop up the damage in an office building hallway in front of a mirrored wall while Ben looked on, entertained. (Should I mention I did not realize the damage until I passed said mirror? Meaning PEOPLE saw me like that first?) 

But the Fenty did go on well, and managed to stay somewhat within the pencil. The Sephora option was also too dark, but went on so badly I had to take precious time first trying to fix it with a q-tip, then giving up and reaching for the makeup remover. 

I am not meant for liquid lipstick. Not happening. They both went back to Sephora. 

While masks are back and I miss my lipstick terribly, I am sticking with my standard lipstick and lip brush. And it's also better to go without than to look like Nolan's Joker. Shudder.  

Monday, January 10, 2022

The Jewish Heart

Unlike Han and my father, I do not "do" Holocaust books or films. There are a few exceptions, as there usually are in life, but I do not actively seek out their company. 

But since I'm the one who reads the Book Review, I introduced Han to Dara Horn's People Love Dead Jews, and Han is smitten (I might actually make PLDJ another exception). He prefers audiobooks, and he played me a segment he found interesting. 

The essay he played I was able to find online, on the Smithsonian website

Anne Frank's memoir has been insanely popular, worldwide. While it is about Jews hiding from the Nazis, it doesn't really deal with the genocide currently taking place. Other memoirs, that do recount the acts of horror, are not remotely as popular. 

Horn cites the work of Zalmen Gradowski, a Sonderkommando who was later killed in a failed uprising. Reading a passage Horn inserted into her essay, I was breathless at how a man who was forced to be a part of such indescribable crimes can not only remain religious, but recount the murders of his charges with compassion. 

Any other soul in such a position would have numbed himself, refusing to connect to the acts he is forced to commit. but Gradowski even details an example of a young woman who not only defies a Nazi official but manages to hit him too before she is taken away. She was no sheep led to the slaughter (a metaphor I have always disliked). 

Sonderkommandos were dead men walking, on limited time (they were killed every three months and replaced). And yet, Gradowski managed to hold on to his humanity and faith, to use beautiful language to describe ugly actions. His empathy remained, even while the Nazis tried every way to burn it out of him.