The Luxury of Giving

hand with tiny leaf_optI’ve never truly been poor. At times of critical need, my parents have helped me out. I am lucky to have family to fall back on—that’s part of my privilege. But my experience of being a single mom for the last three+ years while earning not quite enough to make ends meet, then getting laid off eight months ago (with no unemployment benefits, ahem!), scrambling to find work, and finding myself underemployed…well, it’s taught me some things.

“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.” –George Eliot

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Wonders: Hearing a Heartbeat, Fifteen Years Later

Zeke sonogramToday, I sat in a doctor’s office and heard my son’s heartbeat through an ultrasound machine for the first time in almost 15 years. Fifteen years ago, I was the one lying on a table having the sonogram, feeling both excited and somewhat terrified at impending parenthood.

This morning, my 14 ½ year old didn’t quite fit on the exam table; his legs and feet hung over the side. I don’t know how he felt as he watched his heart from every possible angle on a tiny screen, hearing that rhythmic swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. But as for me, I felt…  Continue reading

Remembering My Grandma

me and Grandma-Jan2014Before you read the brief remarks I offered at my grandmother’s memorial service, here are a few things you should know.

First, my grandfather left her for another woman in 1962. She was 36 years old, with three kids (ages 15, 14, and 8) but no marketable skills or work experience. Her second husband died of cancer. Her third husband (well… they weren’t technically married) died suddenly while we were all on family vacation together in Colorado (this explains why I’m not eager to visit hot springs anywhere). Her oldest son died about twelve years ago from complications of multiple sclerosis. She herself was a cancer survivor. Oh, and she was one of the main founders of this organization: http://samaritanhouse.org/.

The obituary says that my grandma died on Halloween, but really she died the day before. Here’s what I said at her memorial service:  Continue reading

Three Holidays and a Bar Mitzvah

zeke-studying-for-bar-mitzvahAs I write this, the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, is less than two days away—and (to paraphrase Rabbi Alan Lew), I am completely unprepared.

The month of Elul, now rapidly coming to a close, is meant to be a time of preparation. During this month, we sound the shofar every day—its blast meant to rouse us from the slumber of our lives, to shake us into awareness and cause us to reflect: How am I living in the world? What relationships need attention and repair? Am I on the right path? How can I make better, more conscious choices in the new year?  Continue reading

A Choosing Judaism Holiday Dilemma: What Do We Do with Santa?

santa-chanukiah“But Mom, we can’t celebrate Hanukkah—because then Santa won’t come, right?”

This was the question from my clearly worried 7-year old last December as we prepared to celebrate our first Hanukkah. And just like that, all of the confusing family issues surrounding my conversion to Judaism were distilled into one simple, innocent wondering. In that moment, standing there in the kitchen with my youngest son, there was really only one answer: “No, sweetie… Santa loves Hanukkah!”  Continue reading