Friday, June 17, 2011

But We Are

Last year I lamented the lack of attention most Jews pay to the holiday of Shavuot. I reported in that post that "my kids didn't really celebrate Shavuot. Also, as I had predicted, there were very few people at services. No one thinks Shavuot is important enough to take their kids out of school ... ." Commenter Shtuey pointed out that "[t]here is no ritual practice associated with the festival. There is no seder, no building of a temporary structure, no lighting of multi-branched cand[elabra], etc. The best it gets is that we eat dairy."

So far, I have not figured out how to get people excited about Shavuot. But I wanted to go a step further this year and take the kids to the service. At the very least it would give them a clue that a holiday happens in late spring/early summer, even if most people, even Jews, haven't heard of it; the fact that people show up in the middle of the week for a service at the synagogue is "proof."

The problem was that Einstein (8) was supposed to have Field Day (which they call "Spring Swing") on the day I was to take him out of school for the holiday. It felt wrong to deprive him of Spring Swing. I was going to take his little brother only. But then the forecast said that the temperature would reach about a million degrees, with crappy air quality, and they cancelled Spring Swing. I wasn't sure what I was going to do.

In the morning, Einstein asked, "why can't I go to the service?" I said, "well, you can if you want to." He said that he wanted to, and while I realized that he might have been at least partially motivated by a desire to get out of going to school, I was sure that telling him he could had to go to school instead would send the wrong message. Even if, every year, he looks at the Jewish calendar and happily exclaims "oh look! I can get out of school on this day!", I would prefer that to "oh, look, another boring Jewish thing this month ::groan::"

We were getting ready to leave for the synagogue and in the entryway I gave the kids a bit of a warning that there probably would not be very many other children; that, in fact, they might be the only ones. Seeing their confused looks, I said, "well, this is an important holiday, but for some reason many people don't treat it that way."

Without missing a beat, Einstein said, "but we are."

Indeed. You've earned your day off, kid.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wind-up Rocket Ship

Okay, so I was working on a blog post titled "Wind-up Rocket Ship."

It was going to be called that for two reasons. One: I talked about the significance of a little space shuttle that you wind up and it rolls about on the floor and a little spaceperson pops out. I gave it to my son Einstein as a Chanukah gift. You'll see that story in a bit.

Two: In my post involving Pluto, I inadvertently attracted some astronomy people, with passionate comments. I love passionate comments, even if they have little to do with the point I was making (really, I think the whole Pluto thing is very interesting, and I don't mind tangents at all! Tangents lead to things you didn't know you thought or wanted to say and that's where the magic happens! Wait--what were we talking about?). So yeah, you can leave me passionate comments about almost anything. Nothing nasty about me, though. I'd have to come over there and ... you wouldn't want that.

Anyway, I thought I'd mention the Rocket Ship and more space people would show up here. You are all welcome! (Except Borg. I love the Borg but they are kind of mean, and I don't think they blog OR go to movies, let alone do anything Jewish, and if I got assimilated I couldn't do that stuff either. Borg don't seem to do birthdays, either, 'cause they are a hive mind and no one's an individual with a unique birthday. My birthday is soon, so if I'm going to be assimilated, it has to be after that.)

The post to which I obliquely refer was taking forever! I do try to make my posts read fairly cohesively, and be clear about their purpose, and kind of make the reader feel good at the end. It wasn't working. It might eventually work, but I do want to post things, sometimes. So I thought I should find some other way to make this into a publishable piece.

Originally, I was going to list a whole bunch of things that we earthlings living in society do wrong on a regular basis. For example, we don't stand or sit up straight. I find that I'm much better off if I sit the correct, ergonomic way. It prevents the backs of my shoulders from feeling like they are made of cement. Also, if I'm walking around and remember to stand up straight with my head up and my shoulders back, I feel instantly better. I think it opens up your airways and makes you look taller and smarter! Or at least taller. BUT, most of the time, I forget to sit and stand properly, and this is just one of many things I (we) do WRONG.

Then I was going to talk about things that are right, or at least that feel right. For example, as I may have mentioned, I don't keep a kosher home. But I always feel better buying kosher products. Sort of how you feel when you're a kid and you do something your parents would approve of.

The whole "keeping kosher" thing runs the gamut. Some people keep kosher in their house, but if they are at someone else's house, or at a restaurant, all bets are off and they eat whatever they want. Others have more flexibility outside the house, but would draw the line at consuming pork products or shellfish, or, in some cases, mixing meat and dairy together. To illustrate, for such a person it might be okay to have a hamburger in a restaurant that was not made with kosher meat (rules about what makes meat kosher omitted) (see, I avoided that tangent!), but not to have cheese on said burger.

Following kashrut rules in the home can vary quite a bit too. Growing up, we had two separate sets of dishes, silverware, and pots, one for dairy meals and one for meat meals. However, we used the dishwasher for both (not at the same time). If we were more observant we would not have done that (you either have two dishwashers, or you wash one set by hand).

My husband, who was not brought up keeping kosher, and has no desire to do so, can't get his mind around keeping kosher only in the house. He thinks it is hypocritical. As I said, I don't keep kosher, but if I'm looking at two products in the grocery store, and one has a hechsher and one doesn't, I'm going to choose the one that does. Example: I pick Little Debbie Swiss Rolls over Hostess Ho Hos (I also sort of like the fact that the Little Debbies call a "serving size" TWO cakes. They are in twin packaging. Really, does anyone just eat one?)

I was trying to make the point that even doing little things that feel "right" in themselves--even if they are technically hypocritical, or incomplete in that they don't constitute really following Jewish teachings, and even if they don't comport with what others do, and might even make someone ask "why do you care?"--can help to neutralize all of these things we do wrong all the time. I know, that's kind of lame. I was hoping to have a dream, or for some insight to fall from the sky that would return this concept to the cleverness it sported when I first thought of it. Surprise! That didn't happen either.

Also, I wanted to include a funny kid story because those seem to go over well. But all I can come up with right now is that Pumpkin (5) referred to his nose as a Really Big Booger Place recently, and although that was sort of funny I couldn't flesh it out into a story.

During my despair over my inability to make this into a post with any kind of value at all, I was linked to a really really really really really funny blog. I am not going to link to it right now, because if I do, you will go read that instead. I could never be even a tenth as funny as this blogger. Maybe a fifteenth. If what I'm writing right now is a fifteenth, you may tell me so and make me happy. I realize you can't compare this to the superhilarious blog because I didn't tell you which one it was, but I know you love me, and that you will go comment "ATG is a fifteenth" or "1/15!!" after you read this post. And I'll see the comments and smile and skip around happily. It will be your good deed for the day. Then when you find the Really Funny Blog, you may revise your comparison percentage, but just do it in your mind so that I can obliviously continue to feel all .0666666667.

One of Really Funny Blogger's posts (which, by the way, also include comic art) was one in which she expressed concern that she had already written and posted such great stuff that she'd reached a peak, and that maybe she should write some shlop in order to lower her readers' expectations. So she got drunk and wrote some stuff that didn't make sense and made pictures that were maybe not as great as they usually are, and told her readers as she went along that she was going to post this even though it kind of sucked, and so she did, and her attempt to pretend not to be funny was, of course, funny.

I figured I should absorb this genius, and come over here and use it to polish the mirrors. I figured I would write all about how I can't seem to write anything, and say woe is me a few times, and magic will happen and it will morph itself into a worthwhile post.

And the best thing is this: if it isn't good, and you tell me so in your comments, then I can do what RFB did, and UPDATE the post by responding to your comment in a way that makes YOU look like a jerk for saying negative things about me and my writing. Everybody wins!

Just a few more things to meet my arbitrary standards of sufficiency. Or to make this post entirely too long. Maybe you should take a break now? Go pop some popcorn. I'll wait.

THE ORIGINAL LEAD-IN TO THE ROCKET SHIP STORY: At Kol Nidre (the service for Yom Kippur eve) one year, the rabbi asked everyone to think of their favorite Jewish artifact, and also their most remembered spiritual moment. We were supposed to talk to someone next to us about the two for a few minutes, but I had come to the service alone and was sitting at the end of a row next to a married couple, so I sort of sat there awkwardly silent until the rabbi resumed his sermon. But I enjoyed this exercise.

The artifact was easy. A bat mitzvah celebration is a gift-giving occasion. Like many others I received gifts of cash, checks, bonds, a few books, Shabbat candlesticks from the synagogue (every girl got those; boys got a Kiddush cup), a number of pieces of jewelry and a couple of jewelry boxes to keep them in. Other than the candlesticks, I only remember receiving one piece of Judaica. It was a challah knife, with a blue on white decorated handle, and a long serrated blade with the words (in Hebrew): "L'chvod Shabbat," which means "to honor the Sabbath." My mother said that I could choose whether we should use the knife now, or save it until I got married. I liked the idea of saving it, so I did. Looking at it now reminds me of that time, and that choice.

(this isn't my knife, but you get the idea. Taking a picture of my knife and uploading it myself would have delayed this even further!)

AND NOW HERE IS THE STORY: The kids are old enough to understand that they do not celebrate Christmas, but can still enjoy the season (such as by taking in the Winter Lights show, more on that later). There is still some tweaking to do (Pumpkin asked me the other day if I "hated" Santa Claus) but they get very excited about the Jewish holidays. They are still a bit too into the gifts, but it seems that kids this age like to get things, regardless of what they are. The other day Einstein said "this is my favorite Chanukah gift that I ever got."

He was holding one of those tiny plastic wind-up toys; a space shuttle that sort of scuttles across the floor and opens up so the tiny astronaut can go on his/her little space walk. It cost three or four dollars. It may not be a piece of Judaica, but that link to Chanukah in his memory is enough to charge it up with spiritualism. His mind will file it in the "My Religion" cabinet, in the "Chanukah" drawer, under "Things That Make Me Smile." At least, I hope so.

AND NOW I MUST CELEBRATE MY SUCCESS AT FINALLY PUBLISHING THIS...WITH A HAPPY SONG: Clicking on this will probably make you go "I remember this song!" You can't NOT like this song. Even my mother likes this song, and she does not generally let rock guitar pass her eardrums. It will go through your head for the rest of the day, but the cool thing is, you can change the lyrics and just sing about whatever you happen to be doing. Enjoy!

And remember your significant numbers: a fifteenth, and the sixteenth, which is my birthday. Yes, this weekend we celebrate 12tequilas's birthday weekend [with all due love and respect to MLK --ed.].