granola bar dilemma and other rebbitzin tales

Some of my biggest challenges happen in the supermarket. Will they have the fish that I want? Will the lines be unending? Will I have to see people I really don’t want to see? Will people who don’t want to see me have to endure the sight of me?

Sigh.

Yesterday, I was trying to get through the store aqap, but I was stymied in the granola bar aisle. I usually purchase some bars of some kind for travel. But I end up feeling all Goldilocksy–some are too soft, some are too hard, and, to be honest, I haven’t come across the just right ones, but I was looking to see if there were any new options.

I noticed someone who I know in the next aisle over on the phone and we waved. I figured that would be safe enough and I wouldn’t have to talk to him. But of course, a few minutes later (while I’m still Buridan-assing over the granola bars) he comes over. He says to me, “I’m sure you hear this a lot, but your husband is amazing.”

Actually I don’t really remember what he said exactly, because I don’t want him thinking I really know why he’s saying it, so I’m trying to feign ignorance. That’s not really hard for me. I don’t really know why he thinks that, but I also probably know enough, only because of the amount of phone calls back and forth between them. So I play along.

“Thanks. I just stand back and let him do his magic.”

Which is true. But yes, we all know that magicians need their assistants, so I guess sometimes I do assist behind the scenes. I’m so happy to let him be in the spotlight.

And then I shared my dilemma of the granola bars and he wished me good luck with my search.

A few minutes later, we caught up again in the next aisle.

“What did you decide?”

“To make my own.”

And so I did.

Banana Oat Bars from thekitchn.com

Makes one 9×9-inch pan

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Shall I tell you now what I changed or do you want to guess?

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how to get rid of a rat

ISHI thought I was thinking the same thing he was, and I was.

He’s been dealing with trying to help someone get a Jewish divorce from her extremely-no-good husband. I cannot tell you how horrible this person is; I can tell you he should not be called a man.

Or a person.

A rat is probably about right, except that it’s insulting to rats.

So ISHI’s been on the phone (since the woman lives in a  very distant community), going from cell phone to home line and numerous emails, texts, etc., trying to get the situation understood by all the parties, trying to get across the urgency of the situation, to not allow the rat to get away, but to take care of him appropriately.

In fact, we had been out of town for the past 2 days on a lovely attempt to get away (I’ll post some photos separately), and we had basically just returned home for him to spend another hour and a half on the phone with 2 different people, when he points a flashlight near me in the kitchen (I was cooking freshly-picked corn) and then shines it onto the floor of our study

pointing out a real creature of our own that we had to now get rid of.

Okay, ours was a mouse. A sick mouse. I had seen it the other day rambling in our kitchen. Thank G0d I was sitting down at the time. I’m not the stand-on-chairs kind of gal, but I don’t like sharing my kitchen with any not human. We knew that this was not a healthy mouse, since it was moving slow enough for me to see it clearly. We have a lot of traps around the house, and it mostly likely had already ingested some poison, so it just a matter of time before it showed up again.

And so it was not surprising that ISHI saw it this time in the study, which is one door away from the kitchen, again, taking its time.  He was on the phone talking about how to get rid of the rat and now we had to figure out how to get rid of the mouse.

Irony not missed.

Getting rid of the mouse was much easier and cleaner than getting rid of this sick rat. There are some people who just don’t get the threat of rats in our midst.

 

so many mixed messages about marriage

Two days ago, on Shabbat, we celebrated the upcoming wedding of one of our young men next week, along with that of the newly-married couple from the week before. (I KNOW! We actually had a week off on Sunday! We went back to NJ to visit with our kiddies, some of whom are taking off this week moving to Israel. And getting in a brit this morning for a baby who is also moving to Israel with his family this week.

Two days after a circumcision? Only the mohel knows for sure if this is a good idea. Everybody should be healthy. Really healthy.)

Babies and weddings.

Full of promise.

I hope that all the social media that we’re so beholden to now will help them hold onto the promise and love that they feel now. Keeping on message. You know, remember all the photos and the promises you’ve made. All the ahhs and the likes and the loves.

Because it all turns so easily.

A poignant reminder of this was the same morning in synagogue, when in walks a woman who is holding herself together with a little make-up and a lot of smiling. She managed to get out of what had turned into an extremely abusive relationship a few years ago. She’s still really in shock that it had happened to her; that she has lost so much; that he was and is such a bum.

And that’s a nice word for it.

Why are we raising such boys? Such entitled super-indulged self-indulged boys who will never be real men?

I must say how grateful I am that the boys from our community who are getting married now are not at all that way; they will be greatly attentive and thoughtful to others.

And yes, I am very grateful that our own boys are amazingly attentive and caring about their wives, their families, their friends, and their communities. That includes sons-in-laws, too, of course!

And yes, this should be clear from what we are taught and what we teach; that we are not here for ourselves; that we do not accomplish things alone; that we are part of a community; that you are nothing if not with others.

I am reading this excellent book that our friend had recommended (without Goodreads;) ) that I mentioned back in April, “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success”, by Adam Grant. I’m almost done reading it, but I’m not rushing. Every chapter is a gem. Bottom line; givers rise higher than takers and matchers, but not those who give without knowing what they want to get.

It’s the Giving Tree pushback, par excellence.

You can’t let yourself be used up or taken advantage of, even as you give of yourself without limit.

But chopped down? Not so much.

The best of the positive came today, after the bris of this new baby, when the grandmother, who is not Jewish, said “We were already related by family. Now we’re related by blood.”

She really gets it.

I wish everyone else did.

well, if my home is a foreign place,

Then I better start putting down roots.

Actually, what I’ve done this week is more than that. I’ve basically bound myself to home all week in order to get rid of this nasty cold. And now that the weather has turned nasty (of course we can’t SKIP winter), I don’t wanna go out. So roots are down.

And so am I.

It might be traceable to many very real things.

  1. the phone call at 4:56 a.m. ISHI somehow picked it up. “Automated call”, he said,and then tried, pretty much in vain, to go back to sleep for a half hour.
  2. the second phone call at 4:57. This time, I picked it up. It was from Amazon, automated, saying “put your PIN number in now.” No, I don’t think so. It turns out that the first one was from the same number. I called, a few hours later, and they of course said it was not them. They would have sent an email, if there were any problem. And yet, they also said they would investigate it further. If it wasn’t them, why would they need to? Because someone was identifying themselves as Amazon, and they’re not that big not to care.
  3. Oh, and there was another phone call from them another 2 hours later. From the pretend Amazon people, at least I should say.
  4. So I was fine all night. It was the first night in a week that I didn’t feel I had to suppress the coughing and all. Okay maybe just a little. But then when I woke up, it came roaring back.
  5. Maybe I’ll really appreciate spring now, but oh the grey is so sad.
  6. I don’t like complaining.
  7. I don’t like people getting divorced.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Neither did I.

This is a couple I know who had participated in a program with me a few years ago. We’ve been in touch, on and off, through email, Facebook, and a visit last year when we were in Israel. Oh, yeah. Israeli.

Not that it makes a difference at all. Or maybe it does. I like to pretend that everything is better there, even though I know that’s not true by any means.

And they’re young.

With a child.

That makes it worse.

I want to say why didn’t you tell me? I wanted to say why didn’t you ask for help?

I asked a mutual friend what happened and he didn’t tell me. But he told me what I needed to know, that they are both relieved that this has come to an end, and that the divorce was as amicable as possible.

Looking back, I would have known that problems would lay ahead.

But of course, hindsight 20-20.

No, more than that. Everyone has problems–that’s part of the path. But everyone has to find the path that takes them to a better place, if only to have to find another path then.

So I’m not going to ask them what happened. I’m only going to wish them Mazal Tov, as they’ve asked to be wished.

Both of them.

Separately.

And I’ll try harder to pay attention to others, in the future.

(I am feeling better now, thanks for asking. I guess some things just have to work themselves out in ways nastier than we expected.)

the gift of forgetting

subtitle–the curse of remembering

(Please note: Not to be confused with the curse of memory)

This is the bit from Delancey Place that got me started on this particular facet/rant:

In today’s excerpt – total recall, the ability of someone to remember every word they read or hear, has often been lauded as tantamount to a high level of intelligence. The opposite is more often the case. Those with total recall often have difficulty making decisions, and more readily miss understanding the overall point of a book or lecture – because they get enmeshed in an undistinguishable mass of irrelevant details. Forgetting, it turns out, has enormous value for concise understanding and for emotional health

“The act of forgetting crafts and hones data in the brain as if carving a statue from a block of marble. It enables us to make sense of the world by clearing a path to the thoughts that are truly valuable. It also aids emotional recovery. ‘You want to forget embarrassing things,’ says cognitive neuroscientist Zara Bergstrom of the University of Cambridge. ‘Or if you argue with your partner, you want to move on.’

This is returning back to the marriage theme, in case you needed some direction. I’m stating here for the record that the problem in marriage is not always a matter of forgiving and forgetting. Many of us have problems letting go of things. So we hold onto the grudges and the lists of all the injustices that have been done to us. We can’t just let go, that’s for sure. If there is nothing else taking the place of the hurts and the losses, then for sure we will hold onto that pain. But remembering everything? That’s just bad news.

So what should you do, if you only seem to be able to recall the hurt and the pain? You have to fill it up again with good.

And by good, I mean neutral. If you can’t even find the good, if you can’t go back to your beginning and remember what was so good, or that feeling has dissipated so much, then you have to make a new stand. Where you are now.

Ground zero.

And find something you can do together to build up something again.

I finished the book that I mentioned the other day here called  The secret lives of wives : women share what it really takes to stay married by Iris Krasnow. It is not an easy read, Carol. It’s not a manual. It’s a report on the state of marriages that last in America. I would say the most salient point, the take-away, is that women need independence, financial, emotional, and time. But here’s the bottom line, I think.

When I talk to psychologists and divorce lawyers, I ask them what the breaking points are that make it impossible to stay married. The majority of them agree that a long relationship requires these three elements: trust, respect, and intimacy, emotional and physical. (p. 209)

The case that she had just mentioned was one that lacked those elements. And yet, the woman held fast until the breaking point when she demanded that her husband change, but only because she realized that he had been as victimized by his lack of relationship as she was. And she gave him the opportunity to embrace change. And somehow, he did.

So memory gives you the link back to the beginning of the relationship, when hopefully it was open and loving. Remembering is the tool that keeps you bonded to the present. That’s why we have to be grateful to recall the memories, but lose the baggage of all the remembering.

If we can.

changing seasons, changing hats

Twice a year, for the last number of years since the kids have been out of the house, I undergo the my ritual of taking the past season’s boxes of hats out of my closet, going upstairs to S#1’s armoire, taking out the coming season’s boxes, and transferring them.

What? There are more than two seasons?

Yes, true. But I only change twice a year. I pretty much wait to wear the heavy hats until it’s really cold, and then I embrace the opportunity to switch to the lighter weight ones ASAP. That doesn’t include the bunches of hats I have together in shoe boxes, separated by color and weight, that are in our coat closet. Not that I have that many hats, I don’t think. I do weed them out on a pretty regular basis, because what’s the point of keeping things you don’t use?

I used to keep them all in the coat closet, but then I felt that there was too much competition with ISHI’s hats. Why compete when you can each have your own space? It’s a reasonable model for marriage in general. After all, you have to know where you stand in all aspects of life

I figure that Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan is probably a good indication of the time to switch hats for the season.

Then again, snow on the roof is probably a good one, too.

raking the leaves always makes me think of cancer

Well, at least for the last 11 years it has.

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV. I don’t know why some events trigger memories; I do know that smells are the most evocative for memory, although I don’t really care to know why. I just know that a childhood friend always thought that my childhood house smelled like spaghetti (with tomato sauce, etc), so that when I cook spaghetti with tomato sauce, which is very rare since ISHI doesn’t eat tomatoes, I think of that childhood friend and my childhood, just a little bit.

But this is not a function of smell that I am talking about. It is the memory of an action that accompanied a group of thoughts. No, make that a group of emotions. There was not much thinking going on, just feeling.

I could cue up the music now…

Beware–Tangent approaching:

Lloyd Webber, fearing that the tune sounded too similar to a work of Puccini, and the opening – the haunting main theme – also resembles the flute solo in The Mamas & the Papas’ 1965 song “California Dreamin’“, asked his father’s opinion. According to Lloyd Webber, his father responded, “It sounds like a million dollars!” So he based the haunting opening bars of the tune on Ravel’s Bolero.[citation needed] The carefull listener could also notice Memory sounds highly similar to the song Viņi dejoja vienu vasaru[2], composed by the latvian composer Imants Kalniņš for Elpojiet dziļi, a 1967latvian movie.

Oh yeah, I knew the part about the Latvian movie reference, for sure. Really a beautiful song, isn’t it?

Where was I?

Maybe I’m also thinking about illness because there are so many instances of it these days and I’m hearing about them all, it seems. Many of them ending with endings, unfortunately. I had started a blentry about taking people off my prayer lists, but it was getting too depressing.

So I went with this instead.

So 11 years ago  בַּיָמִים הָהֵם בַּזְמַן הַזֶה ISHI was waiting to start chemo for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We had known about it since the summer, but he was told that it would be okay (I think that is the best word) to wait until after all the holidays to start treatment. So for at least a month or two, the doctors knew, we knew,  and then the family knew, and then we had to tell the public. And by the public, I mean the shul. And then the rest of the world found out, if they had to.

But in that meantime, that very mean time, life was supposed to continue as normal, through all the holidays, through our nephew’s bar mitzvah celebration, through all the conversations with all the people that we had contact with.

Which brings me to the chore of raking leaves.

I enjoy the first bag’s worth. I enjoy the freshness in the air. When I warm up with the effort, it’s not enough to sweat, the absence of which I enjoy . I also like the monotony, of a sort, losing yourself to the task at hand.

As I said, for the first bag. The other day, I cleared up the driveway from the pine needles (sorry, T) and enough leaves to fill one bag, and then another half.

And that led me to think back to the raking that I was doing with ISHI 11 years ago, before we had sent out the letter to the community. So when one of the shul members walked by, and she invited herself to jump in our pile, I joined her.

That was the first time I did that for many years and the last time that I can remember doing it.

It was a great release.

ISHI didn’t join in. Too much dog poop on his mind, among many many other things. Eleven years later, he still looks over his shoulder for dog poop and cancer.

I can handle that.

the inestimable value of a locked door

Here are a few of the hardest things about sitting shiva, or my perspective of my husband’s shiva, at least. Again, in no particular order, unless I order it that way.

  • When you’re sitting shiva alone without other family members, then it’s really hard to eat, since there’s no one else who you can tag-team visitors with. Of course, people are very understanding that you need to eat, but since they just got there…so I had to be the meany and announce often that ISHI hadn’t eaten. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. On multiple days.
  • People don’t think. If a door is closed and another one is open, go through the open door. Do people really use their front doors? We don’t, except for Pesach at the sedarim, when we open that door for Eliyahu. Mostly we don’t use the front door because we don’t want people dragging the mud through the house, even though we do have a little vestibule (Yes, T, we could use it; I know). But then, where do you put the coats and all? Moreover, we don’t shovel the walkway up to that door. Wouldn’t you know that people still shlepp up to that door, even when there is snow on the ground (i.e. shnorrer alert)? So of course, ironically, when we ended up opening that door for a while when the weather was nice one day,  people still used the other door. So bottom line, look. Pay attention.
  • I won’t start up about the difficulty of the rabbi bit; it comes with the territory. It was bizarre for all these people to show up here, like for a shiur, people who don’t make Torah a regular part of their lives past listening to the weekly drashah, if they do show up on time and/or are listening, and here he couldn’t teach. But he could teach by example.
  • People who brought cooked food, even though I requested none. ISHI can’t eat so many things  that it’s just not worth explaining to people. Here’s an example of that reasoning.

“I brought you some applesauce, even though I know you said no food. There’s no sugar or anything in it.”

“Um, thanks, but ISHI doesn’t eat apples. Maybe one of the kids will want it.”

Or maybe not.

On the other hand, people did bring lots of uncooked food which has been great. And the fresh apples have been greatly appreciated by my stomach, in particular.

I know. People want to do something. Suggestion? Just show up. And listen.

  • Having to close my door for privacy, but having no privacy. Having the door open all the time. But the following is a story that occurred on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after I could close and lock my outside door. ISHI and I had come home from lunch at my sister’s. The kids would follow later, on their own. Since it looked like impending rain, and since I was working off a major sleep deficit (when am I not?), I decided not to go to Tashlich. D#1 comes home with her youngest, but the two big ones had gone to Tashlich with their father. You know what happens next–the sky opens up with such force that we’re thinking it’s another hurricane. After running around to close all the windows and mop up the wet mess, I get around to opening the side door, just so that they can come right in, since we’re sure they’ve been caught in the rain and they’re soaking wet…

Sure enough, the door opens and we hear a voice call out, “Hello?” But it’s not one of the kids, or our SIL, or ISHI, but a friend. A sopping wet friend. He had been learning at another shul in town and left in what he thought would be enough time to get to our shul for Minchah. But as he already had passed our house and was down the street, he realized he would get sick if he didn’t get out of the rain and out of the clothes. Fast. He thought about where he could get clothes that would reasonably fit him and so he came right in. Yes, he and ISHI are about the same size, so I found him somewhat appropriate clothing (although I don’t think he ever wore Lands’ End before–the man is a very classy dresser). I even sprung for 2 plastic bags for him to put in his shoes, since I couldn’t begin to find substitutions in the dark…And of course, a rain poncho. Always have extra ones for guests, I say. Ironies abound, and that’s what keeps us humble.

  • Maybe the hardest one of all, without any ranting but maybe it should be: not being able to hug my husband. I know that when my mother died, I really didn’t want to be touched. I was really pulling away from everyone, except for the kiddies. They were true comfort. But here, I felt that I was being punished, even though I wasn’t in mourning. And if the week is about comforting the mourner, and I know that would have comforted him, can’t the halakhah take that into account? Or is it too much about straight categorization and no gradation?

the good things about my FIL’s death

Now that I’ve been fixating on the inability to have all good, at least I should take the opportunity to find the good, even in what is definitely a hard time, still during the week of shiva after my father-in-law’s death.

In no particular order, unless I say that it is…

  1. It’s a really good excuse to give to telemarketers for ISHI not coming to the phone.
  2. Also to shidduch inquirers and meshulachim. I must admit I perhaps enjoyed that a little too much, telling them all he couldn’t come to the phone.
  3. Our son and DIL stayed for Shabbat and my father also came to be with all of us.
  4. I can tell people I don’t want food because my freezers are already packed and that’s true. I can also tell some people that yes, I would love food for my kiddies and that turns out to be my 30 year olds and my father and that was great. Now what do I do with the food that people actually did bring and we won’t eat?
  5. I can ask people to get me pomegranates so that I don’t have to worry about finding them (thank you, C!)
  6. People have been mostly very thoughtful.
  7. Someone brought pears and not just apples. ISHi doesn’t eat apples, along with many many other things.
  8. I can leave the room because I have things to get ready for Rosh Hashanah. Like writing this.
  9. We saw our kids all together.
  10. The cousins were all together.
  11. Everyone got along and there were no incidents, except for the fact that ISHI forgot to read his niece and nephews’ names at the funeral. I think. He was sure that he did.
  12. the last one–it’s over. Baruch Dayan Emet. The cloud of uncertainty has lifted. We know that everything was done in the most respectful way for him and he maintained his dignity as much as possible. And he chose life, on his terms.
I just read Rabbi Marc Angel’s dvar Torah for this week and not surprisingly, it’s right on cue. I’ll quote a bit, but it’s not that much longer than this. You should definitely take a look, if you don’t subscribe already.

The three themes in the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah may be considered in light of the themes of separation and reunion. The first section describes God as King, the Being that has control over life and death. When we contemplate this image of God, we react with fear, with a sense of separation. We realize that we are not ultimately in control of our lives–God is. We feel awed by God’s power, we feel separated, even alienated.

The next theme, though, is “zikhronot”–God remembers. He acts with kindness. God is a compassionate Parent who is concerned with our lives. We are not forgotten or forsaken. Our lives are not random or anonymous. We are remembered, we are brought closer to God and to each other.

The third theme, “shofarot”, serves as a bridge between the poles of separation and reunion. The shofar reminds us of the akedah story, a symbol of separation, where a father was to sacrifice his beloved son. Abraham, alone with Isaac on a forsaken mountain, realizes that God is the ultimate king with control over life and death.

But the shofar is also reminiscent of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. At that time, the Israelites were crowded together, united, touching shoulders. There was reconciliation between the people and God.

Rosh Hashana reminds us of the root of our greatest sadness and our greatest happiness. Memories of past separations come to mind, memories that will never leave us and that we experience intensely. But we also experience reunion. We are together in the synagogue. Members of our family have returned; friends and neighbors have come together. We are glad.

that first early phone call in the morning

What does it bring up in you?

Maybe nothing. Maybe you are used to getting phone calls early.

I am not. I am used to somewhat polite people waiting until at least 8 am to call.

The phone rang the other day, early. I was still in bed. Not asleep, but still in bed nonetheless. And it was still early enough that ISHI was still at shul, so it was before 7 am.

Or somewhere around then; I don’t even remember if he got the call or did it go to the machine? I looked at the number and didn’t recognize it. That was enough to delay/allay the anxiety.

So why the great anxiety about a phone call? History. We’ve had too many early morning bad news phone calls, mostly shul-related, but some personal. Right now ISHI’s father is in the hospital. It’s been a week already. Usually when they call on Shabbat, the message that we run to listen to on the machine is pretty clear, “Your father is in the hospital being treated for so-and-so.” Last week, the/a doctor called and the message was “Please call me back.” Not immediately; not he’s back in the hospital, vague. So of course, I didn’t need to tell ISHI right when he came home as we were racing to run to an obligation that night. But of course, as he called, it became clear that things were not as usual.

As the week progressed, things went better and then dropped. Right now, there are so many ends of things wrong, and they had to have that meeting, “How much do you want us to do? What would he want?”

ISHI told them what Halakhah demands and, as far as what my FIL wants, at one point during the week, when he could sort of talk, he motioned that what he really wanted was a hamburger.

The guy wants to live.