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Nov 26 2014

How 16 Weeks of Bed Rest Taught Me to Ask for Help–And Be Grateful When it Comes

By at 1:45 pm

How 16 Weeks of Bed Rest Taught Me to Ask for Help

My son turns 8 years old this Thanksgiving Day. The last time his birthday fell on Thanksgiving was when he turned 2. I wasn’t with him that day. I didn’t get to see him blow out the candles on his slice of pumpkin pie. I didn’t get to sing “Happy Birthday” to him and I wasn’t there for his birthday party.*

Instead, on that day, I was in the hospital, taking care of my daughter. The funny thing is that I hadn’t even met her yet. Nobody had. I didn’t even know she was a she. I was about 22 weeks pregnant and we were already fighting with one another. I was fighting to keep her in and she was fighting to get out. Little did I know that I was about to spend the next 16 weeks flat on my back in a high risk pregnancy unit.

About two weeks earlier, I was going about my business taking care of a toddler and teaching my students how to read, when I was diagnosed with incompetent cervix. The situation was so dire that I was immediately sent to the hospital and the doctors didn’t know what the outcome would be. Ultimately, I had to undergo an emergency cerclage procedure. It was a scary and uncertain time, but now, six years later, I continue to be thankful for what I have and for what I didn’t know I had at the time. Read the rest of this entry →

The New Tradition I’m Extra Thankful for This Year

By at 11:17 am

gratitude jar

Sukkot may be the holiday when I de-clutter and get things out of my life, but on Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, I make sure to pay attention to my stuff.

We are at the start of the season when every store, television commercial, and radio jingle reminds us that we are supposed to let other people know how much we appreciate them… by buying them things. I’m not against the occasional Hanukkah present for my kids or tipping some of the hardworking and often underappreciated people in my life during the holiday season, but this year I am trying to focus on what I have and appreciating how lucky I am before I add to my collection of “things.” And I’m making my family join me.

I read recently that writing down what you’re grateful for every day can be transformative. In addition to cultivating an ongoing sense of gratitude and respect for our belongings and privileges, apparently the practice of putting pen to paper while thinking of how grateful we are can also lead to higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy throughout the day. That sounds pretty good to me. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 27 2013

For the First Time, Both Our Families Will Be Together for an Interfaith Thanksgiving

By at 10:01 am

thanksgiving table

A few months ago my husband and I returned to the Midwest, where we both grew up, after seven years of living in Los Angeles. Out in LA, we were far away from family, which meant that we often celebrated holidays on our own. Sure, it may sound sad, celebrating holidays alone, on the other side of the country. But there was a comfort in celebrating on our own, especially as an interfaith couple. We could observe the way we wanted, out of view of the watchful eyes of our family members–no one to check in and see how we were living out our respective traditions.

But this year is different. Not only are we back in the Midwest, and not only do we now have a 1-year-old, and not only will we have members from both sides of our families together, but for the first and last time in our lives, Thanksgiving and the second night of Hanukkah will also fall on the same day. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 25 2013

This Year I’m Thankful for My Mom

By at 10:03 am

lighting the menorah

People are all about being thankful this time of year. So, in lieu of Thanksgiving approaching, I want to thank my mom. I could seriously spend a lifetime thanking my mom. No, really, I could!

I could thank my mom for always putting me first as a single mother. I could thank her for encouraging me to follow my passion of horseback riding and being my cheerleader at every competition. I could thank her for my love (borderline obsession) with chocolate. I could go on and on, but it would sound too cliche. Every mother knows they gave their child the gift of life, right?

Instead I will thank my mom for doing something profound–showing unconditional love and acceptance as her Christian daughter embraces Judaism:

Thank you for seeing my interfaith marriage as a strength, not a weakness. You were beyond excited about the breaking of the glass, the Hora, and the ketubah signing at our wedding. I know it broke your heart silently that I wasn’t married in a church as generations before me did. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2013

Forget Thanksgivukkah–I’m Dealing with Birthdaykah

By at 11:49 am

birthday

Over the past several weeks, my inbox and newsfeed have been filled with various reminders that we are approaching a once-in-70,000-years event: the overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, endearingly named Thanksgivukkah. While I am very much looking forward to cranberry-sauce-stuffed latkes and turkey menorahs, I am having misgivings about another far less public overlap that will be happening in my home this year; that of Hanukkah and my son’s birthday.

I am excited to celebrate both of these happy occasions, but am a little nervous about what will happen with gift-giving squared. Don’t get me wrong; I relish seeing the happiness in my children’s faces when they rip open wrapping paper to find the items that have been topping their wish-list. Yet, I also find that there is an inverse relationship (and I thought I would never again use high-school math) between the number of gifts they receive and their level of appreciation.

I am sure that I cannot be the only mother (at least I hope I am not the only one) who has had a child open a gift in front of the giver and blurt out a particularly inappropriate remark. Something along the lines of, “Is that all?” or, “That’s not the one I wanted,” or, “But my brother’s present is better,” or a similar comment that makes you want to invent a machine that would filter your children’s thoughts somewhere between their brains and their mouths. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

A Christmas Lesson for My Jewish Son

By at 9:41 am

“…and I tried a new recipe this year, orange zested cranberry sauce. I think it was a hit. And the turkey! You should have seen the turkey we–”

My friend, who I had been catching up with, suddenly stopped mid-sentence. He glanced over at me, an apologetic look taking over his face.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you, you know, even celebrate Thanksgiving?”

My raised eyebrow and pointed stare were enough for him to start backpedaling. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! See You Monday

By at 5:00 pm

happy thanksgiving graphicWe’re jetting off to our various Thanksgiving-friendly dinner tables, so we’ll be gone tomorrow and Friday. We wish everyone a happy, joyous, and peaceful Thanksgiving and will look forward to Monday, when we can all share our favorite weight loss tips and Black Friday horror stories.

In the meantime, be sure to check out these great Thanksgiving-related resources and reflections that we’ve got right here on Kveller:

How to make a turkey-shaped challah. Yes, a turkey-shaped challah.

A cranberry apple noodle kugel recipe that’s both Thanksgiving-y and Jewish-y.

How we can be thankful even among the suffering from Hurricane Sandy, the conflict in Israel, etc.

– Wendy Mogel (this month’s book club author!) on how to teach children the concept of gratitude.

– Last year we crowd-sourced some favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

– The way that Thanksgiving is sort of like Shabbat.

Happy Thanksgiving, Kveller family!

How Can We Be Thankful as Others Are Suffering?

By at 9:23 am

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, as time in any Costco parking lot will tell you. But this Thanksgiving season, I am gasping for breath, torn in different directions.

It’s been a busy few weeks in my own personal life. I popped my fourth kid out a month ago. She went back to the hospital. Hurricane Sandy hit hard, leaving us powerless for two weeks. But in all the stress of living with a newborn and three other kids without power for two weeks–and as you may remember, I’m a semi-spoiled girl who likes her epidurals, so imagine how I feel about electricity!–it was nothing compared to how my friends in Israel are now living. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 20 2012

Turkey-Shaped Challah for Thanksgiving

By at 8:01 pm

turkey shaped challah for thanksgivingIt’s that time of year when people are talking a lot, a LOT, about food, so why should challah miss out on all the fun?

This year, we’re revisiting one of our favorite turkey time traditions: the turkey-shaped challah from Kveller contributer Ariela Pelaia. What could be more fun than gathering the kids around to help make this fun and delicious treat?

Be sure to check out Ariela’s blog for more amazing recipes and fun ideas to do with your kids. And if anybody winds up making their turkey challah, we officially invite you to kvell over it by posting a photo to our Facebook wall. Happy Thanksgiving!

My Family’s Secret Jewish History

By at 3:36 pm

I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.

The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles.  Read the rest of this entry →

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