Mar 4 2014
It all started innocently enough–with a nondescript letter from the hospital where I get my annual mammograms and ultrasounds (dense breasts, anyone?). It was included in the stack of mail that accumulated during our December pilgrimage to my sister’s ski house in Vermont (Christmas Day on the empty slope–a gift to the Jews, even if there are no available Chinese restaurants for dinner). The envelope’s only distinguishing characteristic was a sticker attached to the front. “Not a Bill,” it read. “Please Open.”
Inside was a form letter summoning me back to the hospital for additional scans of my breast. After consulting with the aforementioned-sister, who also happens to be an OB-GYN and multiple cancer survivor, we decided that there was no cause for alarm. I hadn’t received any ominous phone calls from my doctor. The follow-up appointment they scheduled was weeks away. And plenty of women are called back for additional views.
So I resumed my normal routine without panicking. Laundry. Lunchbox packing. Writing. Trips to Trader Joe’s. Schlepping to after-school activities. Rudimentary dinner preparations. The joys of typical suburban life. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 20 2014
Each night before my daughter, age 2.5, goes to sleep, she has a “special minute” with my husband, and then one with me.
This started as a compromise so that we didn’t both have to be present every night for her lengthy bedtime rituals, but the special minute has evolved into a complex ritual of its own. We talk about, in this order, five things at the drugstore, five things at the zoo, five things at the doctor, five things at the Jewish Museum (the National Museum of American Jewish History, here in Philadelphia), five things at the Please Touch Museum (the local children’s museum), five things about her mirror (yes, really), and five things about today.
And we do this every night, just when I’m the most exhausted, right when I’m on the verge of getting some alone time, exactly when I need her just to be asleep already. We talk and we talk and we talk. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 9 2013
“Please God, help me sleep!” That was my prayer, my urgent plea, while lying in bed wide awake three days after the birth of my son. I was beyond exhausted and I knew I only had a short window before I’d have to wake up again to feed him. My baby boy had just fallen asleep after his middle of the night feeding, and I desperately wanted to fall back asleep before he woke up again. My body ached with exhaustion and the pains of a still-healing episiotomy.
The problem was, I was wide awake. And in this state of being wide awake, I found myself contemplating the worthiness of bothering God with my desperate plea to sleep. I’ve asked for, and received, a lot of things over the years, big and small: a good job; a husband; a short line at the airport so I don’t miss my connecting flight; warm weather for my week of holidays. I had prayed like crazy for a child. At the age of 38, there was no way I took for granted a healthy pregnancy and now, the arrival of a healthy, eight pound baby boy.
I admit that over the years I have suffered from what I like to call the “not enough” syndrome. I’m not pretty enough; I’m not talented enough; I’m not ambitious enough; I’m not spontaneous enough; I don’t earn enough. There are even competing “not enough’s” such as: I don’t work hard enough and I don’t spend enough time with my family. I relate to this as a syndrome that disproportionately affects Jews, kind of like lactose intolerance (yes, I am lactose intolerant) although I’m sure we Jews haven’t cornered the market on feelings of inadequacy (or on lactose intolerance, for that matter). Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 14 2013
My youngest daughter, Piper, started out life as a pretty sick baby.
She was born in the middle of the night a little over a week early. I prefer to leave the hospital as soon as possible, since I despise being cold and bothered every hour. I like my bed and my house and very much missed my older daughter, Delanie. Piper had “other plans,” as I like to say. She had a small heart murmur, causing us to stay an additional day for some overly expensive testing.
One night, while my parents were visiting, Piper was having a coughing fit and turned purple. My mom, who is an RN, patted her back fairly hard and Piper seemed to be fine. We let the nurse know and she thought maybe because she was born via C-Section (my second) that she did not get all the mucus squeezed out of her. All in all, they monitored her and performed the additional test. Everything came back normal, and we went home. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 10 2013
Parenting has been compared to many things. I like to compare it to playing darts while wearing a blindfold. Because so often, it really does feel as though it’s just a stab in the dark.
Except when it works.
Some theory you have or some tactic you use works. And then, for one moment, you feel like a freakin’ parenting expert.
Which is exactly how I felt when I overheard the following conversation between my kids Lilly, age 10, and Jacob, age 6. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2013
Giving birth was the most spiritual experience I ever had.
It was as if my body, mind and soul–my very being–was on high alert. I felt a new closeness to the man with whom I had fallen in love years before and who was now the father of my child. I felt an intense identification with the Creator God, to whom I prayed each day, and who was our partner in the creation of the new life I had just pushed from my body.
But as a religious Jewish woman, I was disappointed that my tradition provided no special prayer or ritual to mark my rite of passage from “woman” to “mother,” even as I softly said the generic Shehechiyanu blessing (“…who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time.”) Read the rest of this entry →
May 9 2013
This post, part of our month-long series about God, is by Joyce Anderson, one of the winners of our writing contest.
I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some people call us “The Mormon.” Despite what you’ve heard, what you think about Mitt Romney, or what Broadway musicals say about us, we’re pretty normal people who just want to teach our children how to be godly in an increasingly godless world.
After my first son was born, and after the shock of motherhood started to wear off, I realized that I needed to start thinking about how I was going to teach my son about God, Heaven, Jesus Christ, and all of the other things we believe. I felt overwhelmed at the task in front of me, and I really didn’t know what to do, other than pray. Read the rest of this entry →
May 2 2013
As part of our month-long God series, Abby Sher tells us about her relationship with prayer.
I have prayed every day for the past 25 years. Often obsessively, locked in a closet for hours at a sitting. My mother, my therapists, friends, boyfriends, even reporters have asked me to show them what this compulsive ritual entailed. I’ve refused them all. I’ve always felt like if I explained my thoughts or connection to God, I would sound stupid, or worse, irreverent.
I was raised in a reform Jewish household, where matzah balls, Maneshewitz and Oy, what tsuris defined my heritage. I began praying in earnest when I was 11 and my aunt and father died in quick succession. I was sure I’d made them die, and I had to atone before I struck again. After Mom tucked me into bed at night, I recited the Shema five, 10, then 50 times. I soon added a song of thanks and a list of sick people whom I needed to heal. In high school I snuck into dark closets not to kiss boys but to chant psalms. I once ran away from home just to pray behind the synagogue in a pile of soggy leaves. True worship, in my mind, had to be secret in order to be sacred. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 16 2013
Our governor has asked everyone in Massachusetts to be on a heightened state of alert in the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon yesterday.
I can do that. I’ve been in a heightened state of alert since I first learned that I was pregnant, nearly five years ago.
It has been said that every step we take is a prayer, and that fundamentally there are only two types of prayer: please and thank you. And so it has been since I became a mother: every doctor’s appointment, every milestone eliciting a prayer of gratitude for a positive pregnancy test, a healthy birth, a growing child, and also a plea–at times quiet, other times desperate–for another day, another year, another opportunity to be with my daughters, to watch them grow. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 27 2012
I’m not the first aunt to think her nephew is awesome. But regardless of any bias that I might (or do) possess, I’ve come to appreciate the Inadvertent Philosopher who lives somewhere in my oldest nephew’s insatiably curious brain.
My nephews were taught Hebrew since their first mewling moments–their parents want their progeny to speak the language with relative fluency, for better communication with their Promised Land contemporaries as well as a connection to the language, text, and people of Israel. One lovely side effect of this effort is that Gil, now 6 1/2 (and probably his 4-year-old brother Dov as well), is also achieving simultaneous interest in the words in the siddur, reading the prayer book over his father’s shoulder in synagogue and asking questions. Read the rest of this entry →