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Oct 24 2014

When I Became a Mother, I Neglected My Art. Here’s What I’m Doing to Change That

By at 12:01 pm

If I’m Going to be a Great Mom, I Have to Invest in My Art

Around my neck, for years, I wore a gold heart-shaped locket. Instead of a traditional photograph of a cherished friend, boyfriend, or family member, when opened, the locket had two words scrawled in pen on each tiny side: “Reb Zusha” and “10 minutes.”

There’s a Hasidic story of the great Reb Zusha of Anipol who was found crying profusely on his deathbed. “Why are you crying?” asked his disciples.

“If God asks me why I wasn’t like Moses or Maimonides,” answered Reb Zusha, “I’ll say, I wasn’t blessed with that kind of leadership ability and wisdom. But I’m afraid of another question,” continued Reb Zusha. “What if God asks, Reb Zusha, why weren’t you like Reb Zusha? Why didn’t you find your inner being and realize your inner potential? Why didn’t you find yourself? That is why I am crying.”

Touched by this story, the scrawled letters inside the locket were a desperate attempt to remind myself that I needed to do art, at the very least, for 10 minutes a day. Somehow, all my time as a young single woman in her 20s was used up attempting to succeed in the workplace, leaving no time for artistic urges. My deep conviction that I had an artistic power began at the age of 16, when for the first time, an art teacher taught me that my messier, intense style and approach was indeed beautiful. He was the reason I continued on to pursue a painting degree. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 14 2014

Pinterest Has No Good Ideas For Decorating Jewishly

By at 11:56 am


I’m desperate to redo the sad, drab entryway in my house. After seven moves with the U.S. military, I’ve become accustomed to simply putting our things “where they fit” in whatever home we’re currently living in.

Our family–and our belongings–have become the only real indication of where our “home” is after moving so much. But now that we’re more settled at our current duty station, it’s time to really reevaluate.

Does this home look like we want it to? Like us? Who are we, anyway? Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2014

What Happens When You Are a Carrier for a Jewish Genetic Disease?

By at 10:13 am


Lauren Weinstein and her husband were expecting their first child when they learned that they are both carriers of a gene that causes cystic fibrosis (CF), one of the 19 common genetic diseases found among Ashkenazi Jews. The prognosis for a child with CF is pretty grim, and Lauren underwent DNA testing to learn if their child would have the disease. Then she managed to write a touching and darkly funny comic called “Carriers” about the period of waiting for those test results, published in Nautilus. She agreed to talk with me about her experience.

1. What was the your initial response when you were told that there was a good chance your child would have CF? Were you scouring the internet?

I have never been a fan of researching any medical issue on the internet. Obviously, it is a writhing pit of misinformation, none of which may pertain to your specific problem, especially when it’s about something as serious as CF. I waited until I met the genetic counselor and the pediatrician. And the picture the pediatrician painted was pretty bleak, unfortunately. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 24 2014

When I Finally Developed My Daughter’s Camera, Her Photos Took My Breath Away

By at 1:53 pm


It began, as so many things do these days, with a nudge that turned into a whine. Ima. Eeeeeemmmmaaaaa. When are you going to charge my camera for me?

Orli, my older daughter, has her own camera, a small Fisher Price deal that takes relatively fuzzy pictures–especially given how crisp digital images are these days–unless the light is absolutely perfect. I thought buying it was a mistake.“Why are we giving her a camera that doesn’t even work well?” I wondered, at the time.

It was late last spring, and Orli was in that strange space pre-school age children get into when they are anticipating a sibling they desperately want, and yet, on some level, understand will upend their lives. She wanted a camera. Very, very much. And so we got her this guy, with its sturdy, drop-me-I’ll-be-fine thick plastic walls. It is pink and white. I hated it. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2014

Artist Photoshops Herself into Her Own Childhood Photographs

By at 1:44 pm
chino otsuka imagine finding me

1982 + 2005, France (China Otsuka)

Ever wonder what it would be like to hang out with your 7-year-old self? What about your awkward 14-year-old “don’t take a picture of me” self? Artist Chino Otsuka explores this fantasy in her excellent photo series “Imagine Finding Me.”

Otsuka manipulated old photographs from her childhood by placing varying images of herself in older years, side-by-side to her younger self in eerily authentic looking Photoshop creations.

Otuska explained the thought process behind her beautiful project:

“The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.”

Take a look at these images while you ponder what your kids might do with all those iPhone photos of themselves. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 4 2013

My Children vs. My Passion: Can I Really Do it All?

By at 2:29 pm

where was i? typed on typewiriter

I know I am not the first person to write a novel with my right hand while changing a diaper with my left. It’s just that when I do, the contents of the novel end up very similar to the contents of the diaper.

“Being here now” is difficult when you have to be in three places at once. But if you have a passion, a day job, and you’re an involved parent, then you must learn to compartmentalize on a dime. You know you’re dealing with a passion when you simply have no choice but to do so. Crystal meth has a limp handshake when compared to the grip of a passion. It’s not a desire; it’s an obsession. It’s an elemental–


Excuse me.


“Sarah called me stupid and said my dress is too small!”

“Are you stupid?”

“No.” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

The Better Way to Read to Your Kids

By at 1:46 pm

siblings reading to each otherSometimes, while all four children are seated at the table, shoveling cheerios down their o-shaped mouths, I have tried to limit breakfast battles by reading a book.

It does not seem to matter what kind of book I read in the early hour; they all listen and concentrate on the tale at hand. With my children ranging from teen, tween and post-tot, it fascinates me that each child is able to enjoy the story, no matter what their reading level is. This has led me to think about the power of picture books and early reading comprehension. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 9 2012

Am I the Boring Grandmother?

By at 4:18 pm
moma museum of modern art new york

I'd take museum over roller coaster any day.

So I’m hoping I’m not the “boring grandmother.”

My machatenista (Yiddish, your child’s mother-in-law) has three boys and, reliving a happy part of their youth, and hers, loudly cheers on our grandsons at their Little League games.

I couldn’t stand going to those games even when my sons played. It was hot, buggy, the kids looked miserable, and there was always at least one idiot father who acted like a 3-year-old, having a tantrum if the kids failed to live up to his expectations or the ref made a call he didn’t like. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2012

Hello Kitty and Dora in Bed

By at 11:11 am

This is why it’s wonderful to have so many unemployed art school grads working as babysitters. I came home to find this at home last night. My daughter dictated exactly what she wanted.

Aug 23 2011

Getting Crafty, With a Purpose

By at 2:51 pm

Yarn art for Rosh Hashanah.

My 9-month-old son is way too young for real arts and crafts projects. He’s still at the point where everything goes into his mouth, and I don’t fully trust Crayola’s non-toxic claim.

But as a former first grade Hebrew school teacher, I’ve been doing Jewish crafts with young kids for years. Pillbox mezuzahs. Driedel mobiles. Stained glass kiddish cups. Graham cracker sukkahs. Been there, done that.

One of the most important things I tried to keep in mind when creating these crafts was connecting the activity with the object we’re making. Using crayons to color candlestick holders allows you to teach that wax makes up both crayons and the candles. Kveller’s apple-print placemat is a classic way to incorporate the sweet fruit eaten on Rosh Hashanah with the blessings used on the holiday.

But for me, it goes deeper– to the intention that lies with what we create with our children. You can glitter, bedazzle, and paint a wooden cup all you want. But if It never leaves the shelf (or pile of arts and crafts projects), how do you know it’s a kiddush cup? Conversely, if an old sippy cup gets some grape juice occasionally on a Friday night, is it not a kiddush cup? What about decorating it to incorporate the idea of hiddur mitzvah, making our observances beautiful?

Ritual objects are simply what their name suggests: objects that have a ritual associated with them. A challah cover is only as good as the bread beneath it. A kippah is only as attractive as the smile on the head under it.

Craft projects don’t need to be fancy and they don’t need to be made out of expensive supplies from Michael’s. And sometimes we color just for the sake of coloring.

But we’re doing something special when we create together with our children with a little intention. Doing with a purpose–that’s Judaism in a nutshell.


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