Lela Casey is a mother of three children living in Bucks County, PA. Being raised by a fiery Israeli mother and a gentle farmer in the middle of nowhere lent her a unique perspective on Judaism. She holds degrees from both Penn State University and Rhode Island College. Besides contributing to Kveller, she has written several children's books and young adult novels.
My oldest son came home from school beaming. “I got picked first in gym today and my team won!”
The look on his face reflected the wince I was trying to hide.
I should have been happy,…right? The fact that he was picked first means that he is athletic and popular. It means that he is good at making friends and fitting in--all the things that I never could figure out how to be when I was a kid. And I am happy about those things. Because I know that he… >> Read More
My 40th birthday is fast approaching and I've been devouring those “What I've Learned in My 40 Years” lists like candy.
I find them to be insightful, inspiring, and slightly depressing.…Because while everyone has been going through life accumulating wisdom and rules to live by, I've been going the opposite way. Unlearning. Here's a list of the top seven things I have unlearned in my (almost) 40 years. 1. There are right and wrong choices in life. Choosing the right ones will lead to happiness… >> Read More
My first introduction to Hebrew school came during my junior year of college. It was my first day of Hebrew 101 and I was feeling pretty sure of myself. While I'd never had any formal schooling in…Hebrew, I was certain that having an Israeli mother was going to give me a big advantage. I'd been to Israel several times as a child. I knew songs and words, prayers and curses. Rolled r's and hard c's had been the music of my youth. What I didn't know was that while I'd been… >> Read More
Passover has always been a lonely time for me.
Not that first night, of course. The seder was a burst of colors, sounds, and tastes. Purple Manishewitz seeping into white table cloths, my Israeli…mom and our visiting family pounding their fists and howling “Achad Mi Yodaya” long into the night, the bitter taste of the horseradish that we dared each other to eat in enormous prickly mouthfuls. The hard part was the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and on and on… >> Read More
My kids have no delusions about me being a perfect mother. Dishes slip from my fingers just as easily as parent-teacher conference dates slip from my mind. I make mistakes just as readily as I…forgive theirs. >> Read More
There's a picture of my saba (grandfather) and savta (grandmother) hanging in my living room. The same one that hung in my own house growing up. Their faces are wrinkled and neither of them is…smiling. My saba's leg rests against my savta's knee, while my savta's hand is clenched tightly in her lap. Filled with seeds for the hungry birds, my mother explained. >> Read More
I grew up in a clothes-on-the-floor, dinner-in-the-grass, bellowing-show-tunes-at-the-store kind of house. The only real rules were no hitting (unless you're hitting back), no cursing (in English),…and if you said honest, it HAD to be true. My parents would surprise us (and our teachers) by picking us up at school for a month long road trip with no notice at all. >> Read More
When I was a kid, adolescence always seemed to be looming in front of me like a dark threat. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because my parents spoke so negatively of teenagers, maybe it was because…my sweet playful cousins transformed into sulky eye-rollers overnight, or maybe it was just the fear of separation from my parents. Whatever the reasons, adolescence felt like a condition, something shameful to avoid at all costs. >> Read More
When my husband and I first decided to get married, we had the typical interfaith negotiations. No to church, yes to a bris if we ever had a baby boy, no to a Christmas tree.
The last decision had…an asterisk. We agreed that we would celebrate a secular Christmas at his family’s house unless there was some major reason we could not attend. Then, and only then, would we have a Christmas tree in our home. So began our lives together. We did remarkably well those first years. >> Read More
My 10-year-old son came into the room while I was watching the news yesterday. On screen, they were talking about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in…Cleveland. “Why would the police kill a kid, Mom?” I stumbled around for answers I didn't have. “Well, I guess he was carrying a BB gun and the police thought it was a real gun.” “My cousins have BB guns. Are they going to get shot?” >> Read More
My daughter's imaginary friend is named “N.O.K.” Since she was very small, she's been talking about her, as in: “N.O.K. loves cherry ice cream,” “N.O.K. is the only one who will play…games that aren't ‘princess-y,’” “N.O.K's mom is in Israel this week so she's staying with us.” When my daughter had to make a list of her best friends for school, N.O.K. was at the top of the list. N.O.K has a big heart, a quick wit, and a terrific sense of humor. But until last… >> Read More
My 5-year-old daughter was supposed to earn her yellow belt in karate last month. She'd prepared for months for this moment. When it was time to be tested, she stood proudly before her instructor.…She kicked and punched and upper-cut like a pro. There was no doubt that she was ready to move forward. But, when it was time to receive her new belt, she froze. "I don't want to give up my old belt. I'll miss it too much." Her lower lip quivered as she spoke. >> Read More
It has been one of those days.
The kind where I wake up in the middle of the night to find that my 5-year-old daughter has crawled into my bed again and now her feet are wedged under my head and I…can't fall asleep for hours, and when I finally do I am woken up by a steady clunk of big boy feet and arms and bodies. They're happy and excited to start the day. They want me to make them breakfast, check their homework, hug them, kiss them, find their jackets, mediate their arguments, solve… >> Read More
My college years were a blur of last-minute study sessions and lost homework. Although I managed to graduate from Penn State with a respectable GPA, I paid for it in years of “forgot to study for…my final” nightmares. You would think that I would have learned my lesson after all those stressful college moments. But I didn’t. Over the years, I’ve missed appointments, lost passports, even booked hotels in the wrong city. When these things happen, my husband, the engineer, just shakes his head in disbelief. Although he tries very… >> Read More
My middle son told me something the other night that made my stomach twist into a painful knot. He told me that his preschool teacher wasn’t very nice to him, but he hadn’t told me about it…before because he knew that I liked her. This may seem like a little thing. But, it isn’t to me. Until that moment I had been sure that my kids trusted me enough to tell me about the things that are important to them, the things that they are worried about. The fact that he’d… >> Read More
Growing up as the only Jewish family in town meant that we missed out on a lot of things. We didn't go to Hebrew School, we barely acknowledged Shabbat, and we had very little connection to the…Jewish community. My Israeli mother did her best to give us a basis in Judaism, but since my dad did not have a Jewish background and there were no other Jews for miles around, being Jewish was more of an abstract concept than a way of life. But, every year, when the air turned cooler… >> Read More
My sister gave birth to her first baby last night. Her voice on the phone was both heavy with exhaustion and fluttery with joy. My heart ached to be so far away from her during this blessed…beginning. I was light and cheerful while we spoke. This was a happy occasion, of course. Perhaps the very happiest life has to offer. Still, something about our conversation unnerved me. It wasn’t until hours later that it struck me. I’m worried about her. >> Read More
My son Dalen is a worrier. He worries about big things like mass extinction and little things like being late for school and not wearing the right color clothes for Spirit Day. When his mind begins…to spin and his fingers begin to twist, I think of myself at that age. I was an anxious kid. I worried about thunderstorms and math tests and lingering coughs. But more than anything, I worried about death. I was obsessed with it, in fact. Every time my parents were 10 minutes late to pick… >> Read More
Last summer I was a bridesmaid at one of my very dearest friend’s weddings. I wore a fitted black dress with a white sash that made me feel a little Audrey Hepburn-ish.
When I walked down the…aisle, I smiled tearfully into his eyes and then I took my place by his side. That’s right. His. Ben has been one of my closest friends since I started college. He’s the one I confided in when I failed tests, when I got my heart broken, even when I lost my virginity. We’ve gone… >> Read More
The other day I was sitting in the dentist office with my daughter. For the first half hour, she looked at books and fiddled around with the spattering of baby toys in the waiting room. And then…it began. “I’m bored, Mama!” “It will be our turn soon.” >> Read More
My daughter sat on the floor watching me get dressed. She was wearing her brother's ripped t-shirt and her hair was bunched into a knotty knob on her head.
“That's a pretty dress, Mama.”
Her…eyes shone when she looked at me, tiny mirrors that reflected my face back to me in rainbow colors. >> Read More
“Do you believe in God, Mama?”
A hard lump of something rose up from deep in my chest and got lodged in my throat.
This was the kind of question that pierced right to the heart of things, the…kind that forced you to take sides, make a decision, woman up. The kind of question my 4-year-old daughter excels at. >> Read More
When I was a little girl, my mother would tell us stories about her home far away across the sea. It was a magical place where deserts burst into life and the sea was so blue it was like swimming…in the sky. This magical place was called Israel. The people were good in this land. Warm and loving and quivering with life. They were smarter and stronger and braver and funnier and more beautiful than anyone we could imagine in our small, rural town. They were kings and queens and knights and storybook heroes.… >> Read More
My son made his first Jewish friend. His name is Dan, and he's got dark curly hair and wears glasses.
Charlie was so excited when he told me about him. “He celebrates Hanukkah, Mom, just like…us! And he has a shirt with Hebrew writing on it.” He continued to talk about Dan for weeks afterward. “Dan hit a home run at recess, Dan is better than me at math, Dan brings peanut butter fudge for dessert.” >> Read More