Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hannah Rose

When I was in third grade, I met a girl in my Hebrew school class that would change the course of my life forever.

At nine years old, this girl and I were mostly concerned about getting our ears pierced - something both of our dads strictly forbid. She had blonde straight hair and I had dark curly hair. While we did not look like sisters, we both felt that connection right way. She had three brothers and I had two and we were both sorely in need of a girl to confide in.

Our friendship grew and grew over the years. Our brothers became friends. Our parents became friends. We went to the shore together. I rode in my first limo with her and spent summers swimming in her outdoor pool. I called her parent's mom and dad and they were very much like parents to me. I slept over her house every weekend and we spent rang in many New Year's Eves together.

We celebrated out Bat Mitzvah's together. I remember her Sweet Sixteen party like it was last month and not several decades ago. I remember each and every New Kids on the Block concert. I remember walking around the mall on Friday nights just because. I remember it all.

We were in our synagogue's youth group together and had our first crushes together. She fell in love first and I was envious and worried about what it might do to our friendship. It only strengthened it. I signed the ketubah (marriage contract) at her wedding and she and her husband, in turn, signed mine (although many many years later!).

Estelle and I have been friends for as long as I can remember and I can't imagine what my life would be like without her by my side.

Noam was instrumental in getting me a job that opened up many doors for me. I made a lot of friends, build up a nice resume and oh yeah, also met the man that would later be my husband.

When Estelle called to tell me she was pregnant, I already knew. I had dreamt it. I also knew her name. I can't explain it - I am the least clairvoyant person there is...and yet I knew the world was soon going to meet a girl named Hannah Rose.

Hannah turned thirteen this past December. And this past weekend, she celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.

It's hard to put into words what the weekend meant to me. Friday night, my mom and I went to synagogue services and sat with another friend that has been with us on this journey for almost as long. We watched the evening unfold and took it all in.

The next morning we went back to synagogue. Gary and Miranda came, too. Miranda sat through almost two hours of services that were mainly in Hebrew. That is no small feat for an almost-four-year-old! She drank it all in and I hope that experience will excite her about her upcoming Jewish education. I think it did.

And Hannah? Well, that little girl is not so little anymore. She was poised and confident and radiant, just like her mom. I was so proud of her and so proud to know that I played a little part in the history of her life.

Estelle and Noam were beaming. There were tears of happiness and joy. I practically wanted to freeze time.

That night, we partied. We celebrated and laughed and cheered and cried a little bit more. Hannah has her whole life ahead of her and has a solid and strong foundation on which to build her whole life. Her younger brother, Zach, who just turned eight (and thus not so "young" anymore) was enjoying the attention that both he and his sister were receiving and they were both so amazing. 

Estelle's brothers and their wives and their kids were all having a great time. Noam's siblings and their families were spreading contagious smiles. It was a full-circle moment for me in that I went from the kid that danced the Wang Chung at Estelle's Bat Mitzvah to "one of her parent's friends" at Hannah's Bat Mitzvah.

We all held hands as we danced the hora and the feeling in the room was electric. Years of Hannah studying and practicing and learning. Years of Hebrew school lessons and tutoring and rehearsing over and over and over.

I look at this family that Estelle and Noam have made and I burst with pride. Then I look at my own family and think about how lucky I am. How lucky we all are. 

Judaism is more than a religion to me. It introduced me to my oldest friend and her family. I love the traditions and the culture and the spirituality of it all.

I am so proud of Hannah. I am honored to be a part of her life. I can't wait to see what's in store for her next. Something tells me with her parents and her brother by her side, it will be!

Hannah's Baby Naming
Miranda and me "striking a pose"
The Proud Family!



What a night!
  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jewish Confessional

Since I am Jewish, I do not take or go to Confession. If I did, I feel like every other time I would go, I would say, "Bless me, Rabbi, for I have sinned. I ate a box of Girl Scout cookies...again."

I am not making light of confession; rather, I am illustrating exactly how big of a deal my weight is to me.

That's right. To me. Because I finally get that no one else really cares. As long as I am healthy and happy, no one gives a crap what size jeans I wear.

I have lost and gained so much weight, so many times, that I have stretch marks of every shape and size. Some of from being pregnant, but most are from bagels and pasta. And ice cream. And in college, lots of ramen and macaroni and cheese.

These days, I am busy taking care of my daughter and making sure my family is doing well. I am also trying to build my writing career. I got a new client last week and I am already doing work for them. I simply do not have time for the self-loathing that I have been doing my whole life.

When I am thin, I am not thin enough. When I am fat, I am too fat. So I am trying something new.

I do not want to be thin. I do not want to be fat. I just want to be me.

Zumba!
I tried my first Zumba class this morning. I figured those skills would give me the energy to keep up with Miranda on the playground or at the pool this summer. With sweat rolling down my face, moving left, swaying right, I looked into the mirror and saw my reflection smiling back at me. It was a tired smile, but it was a proud smile. I am taking care of me.

I started cooking. With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, I am cooking healthy recipes that my whole family seems to enjoy. With the help of my best friend since high school, I made fish for the first time last week. It was so good, Miranda picked it up and ate it with her hands. Then she devoured the string beans that went with it. Huh??

My mom tried her best with me, but I was stubborn. I refused to eat or try certain vegetables just because. Miranda is stubborn, too, but I am hoping if we set the precedent when she is young, she will never know the difference between good food or bad food. She will just know how we eat at home. And then I can rest easy knowing that I am giving her the best foundation that I can.

None of this is easy. I guarantee you we will have pizza night again - sooner rather than later. And when I am cooking, I like to have a nice glass of wine with me. We also still have Girl Scout cookies in the pantry and several boxes on order from my niece. For the first time, I know I do not have to get rid of everything in the house. I just have to make smarter choices when I can. And when I can't, it's ok. One meal at a time...one day at a time.  It's not a perfect system, but it's sure better than how I have been living.

"Bless me, Rabbi...I have made an awful lot of mistakes but I think I finally found a way to fix them."

My shopping partner

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Passion

I was recently asked what I was passionate about. I did not even have to think about it. I am passionate about my family.

My first daughter died at 37 weeks, a mere three weeks before she was due to be born. I did not know that could happen in this day and age and I was devastated.

My second daughter was adopted two days after she was born. Originally, I did not know if adoption was the right path for us and I was scared and anxious and afraid.

Both of these girls, the one I dream about when I close my eyes and the one I hold in my arms when I am awake, have made me a mom and have helped me come alive.

A mother, to me, does everything she can to make sure her child is safe. She loves unconditionally and gives completely.

I missed out on being a mom to my first daughter.  Although she made me a mother, I feel like I never got to be her mom.  With my second daughter, I had to learn how to do everything as if it was my first time around because it was. There was nothing easy about any of it and yet I enjoyed it (and still do!) more than I ever thought possible.

Maybe it has nothing to do with death and loss and grief. Maybe I just see this amazing child and know that she deserves it all.

I want my living child to grow up strong and loved and confident and fierce. I want that with my whole heart. 

Yesterday, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures and went to the local zoo. My sister-in-law and nieces joined us there. I could not stop smiling. Despite all that we have been through, we were just a couple of moms, taking our kids on a little adventure, passing the time with laughter and love and memory making. It was nothing and everything at the same time.

There was a time that I did not think we were going to be able to raise our children together. I worried that I would never parent a living child. I thought I would be lonely forever.

I am so happy that I was wrong.

My passion is my family. Those of my blood and those of my heart. To me, they are one and the same.

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Is Us

Much has been written about the new NBC drama, This Is Us. It’s a heartfelt show that really resonates with viewers far and wide. Many are calling it one of the best new shows of the season. I am one of those viewers.
 
The core of the show is the mother and the father. They are pregnant when the show begins and expecting triplets. They are excited and scared and nervous and anxious.

Unexpectedly, one of the babies is born still. They have to mourn that loss and learn how to move forward with their lives.
 
Expecting to bring three babies home from the hospital, they are heartbroken.  

As luck would have it, there was a baby who was brought to the hospital on the same day that the other babies were born who was without a home. 
 
They adopted this baby and brought him home and into their family.
 
As the children start to grow, each faces unique situations that make them who they are. 

The show is shown in the present as well as the past so that the viewer can see all the different versions of the characters.
 
One child, the only daughter, has struggled with her weight her whole life. She often felt like an outcast and tried every diet imaginable. She even flirted with gastric bypass surgery on a recent episode.

The biological father of the adopted child comes back into his son’s life. We later learn that he is gay.

So why do I care? Why does this show matter to me? It’s just television, right?

Well, my first daughter was born still. My second daughter was adopted. I was seriously considering bariatric surgery (met with the surgeon and everything) up until about three weeks ago. And my father was gay.

I like to think that my life experiences are so unique, but it turns out that many of the themes of my life (love, loss, hope, fear) are so common that they made a TV show about them.

It is interesting to see how Hollywood deals with some very real issues. I have been impressed with how they have handled a variety of topics. Plus the show was just renewed for two years, so it’s not going anywhere.

This show is a great escape for me. Sometimes I laugh. Often times I cry. These fictional characters have given a very real glimpse into my life. I applaud this new show and the perspective it brings.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hate

It seems that the current political climate has brought out the worst in us. Everywhere I turn, I hear stories of hate. 
 
In 5th grade, I was riding the bus home from school as I always did. A neighborhood boy chucked a penny at my head and told me that I should take it because my people were used to taking money from others.  Money that did not belong to them. I rubbed the place on my scalp where the penny hit and I felt tears well up in my eyes. What was he talking about? I knew I was different because I didn’t celebrate Christmas like the other kids on my block, but did different mean bad? And why was he so angry? I never understood it. I still don’t.

My mother was born in Brooklyn but raised in a small town in Pennsylvania. One year, while working her way through college and a department store, someone noticed her name tag and figured out (correctly) that she was Jewish. They asked her where she was hiding her horns. She was aghast. Her what? The customer was not being mean. Not at all. She just heard that Jewish people had horns and wanted to know where hers were. I think she also asked if she had a tail.

Ask any minority for a story of ignorance and hate and you will find they have more than one to tell.

When my non-Jewish husband and I first started to date, I told him early on that Judaism was a part of me. It is as much a part of me as my skin and bones.  He asked if I wanted him to convert to my religion. I replied that it was not necessary, unless he wanted to be Jewish. I can live in a house and a family that shares different views, as long as I am still free to have mine.

Why does ignorance breed hate? Why can’t we all get along? Am I na├»ve to think that a world in which we embrace our differences is a better world than one in which we are afraid to send our children to school or afraid to be out alone walking at night?

I have a young daughter. I do not want anyone to ever throw pennies at her. I do not want anyone to ask her where she is hiding her horns or her tail. I do not want anyone to dislike her right away simply because she has different religious beliefs as those around her. Or because she was adopted. Or because of this thing or that thing.  I want her to be proud of who she is. I am proud of her every day, because she is true to herself. It's easy to be when you are on the brink of turning 4!

I want a world that is safe for her. I worry more and more that what I want for her is quickly slipping away. That scares me so much more than I can say.

Let’s learn to love more and hate less. Wouldn’t we all be better off that way?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Sound of Silence

One of the first things I noticed when we came home from the hospital after Allie died was the silence. It was so quiet. Even though we had friends and family stopping by to take care of us and tend to our every need, the house was so quiet and still. The empty sounds of a baby NOT crying was almost too much for me to stand. I remember being so angry at the silence.

Since the day we brought Miranda home, there has been very little silence. She is a child who likes to make her presence known and she does it with both grace and gusto.

This past Saturday was my birthday. It was a wonderful day filled with gymnastics lessons for Miranda in the morning followed by lunch, just the three of us. Then I dropped Miranda at my mom's house and Gary and I got prepared to go to the movies and dinner.

When we got home, the house was so quiet. This was only the second time ever that we were home at night without our daughter. I could not help but notice how different the silence was.

The silence before Miranda was sad and empty and filled with grief.

The silence now is just peace and quiet.

There is a big difference.

My heart will never forget the different kinds of silence. My head won't either. 

Allie takes up a chunk of my soul that has a lot of happiness, but is also cloaked in sadness. Who would she be right now? How many times would she have slept at Grammy's house?  What would she look like? What would her hobbies be?

Miranda takes up a different chunk of my soul and what is not happiness is anxiety, worry, and fear.  Am I doing this right, am I doing that right, am I going to mess this child up forever??

Being a parent is not easy. Being a parent to a child who only lives in your heart is tough. Being a parent to an almost four-year-old with limitless energy, an active imagination and the desire to want to play all the time is also not easy. However, parenting a living child is very rewarding.  Parenting a child that is not here with you is just...silent.

Sometimes I still hate the sound of that silence. More and more, though, I am still healing and learning to just enjoy the sound of silence.



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Birthday Dinner

My brother’s birthday is New Year’s Day. He surprised my parents by arriving a month early. He surprised them eight months earlier by even coming into existence. He was the baby they had not really planned for in a marriage that was heading towards the end. However, my brother was ready to be born on his own timeline and there was not much anyone could do about that.

Jeff is seven years my junior and so I am very protective of him. Sometimes I feel more like a mother to him than a sister.  

I have another brother, too. Dan is only two years younger than me and for much of our childhood, we were thick as thieves. We did not want another sibling, not that anyone asked us. Having a baby around was a nuisance and took a lot of the attention away from us. So not cool.

Eventually, we found our rhythm. The boys fought a lot, like brothers do, but they also became very close. When our parents did in fact divorce, we knew that we had to stick together, even though we were so young.

I was already in college during much of Jeff’s formative years and was so shocked when I came home for visits to see how much he had grown. In my mind, he was my baby brother, but in reality, he was taller, stronger and smarter than I could ever be.

The inevitable divorce of my parents left many scars. However, one thing that my mom tried to do was have certain traditions that we did without fail. Birthday Dinner was one of those traditions.

Every year, without fail, we would have “Birthday Dinner” for Jeff. Since his birthday is also a national holiday and everyone is off from school/work, it was an easy excuse to get together one last time before the new year started.

Jeff went to school out of state. He was almost always home for New Year’s, but if he wasn’t, we still had a dinner in his honor.

When Jeff got married, he lived in yet another state for some time. Birthday dinner was still there.

When Jeff and his new wife quit their jobs and traveled around the world, they did not always make it back home.  Birthday dinner still happened. They would Skype from Thailand or Bulgaria or Turkey and we would do our best to catch up and celebrate Jeff’s birthday.

Now Jeff has a family of his own. They are living mere minutes from me. We see each other often and he is as involved in my family’s life as I am in his. My daughter explodes with excitement when she sees him walk into a room and his daughter and newborn son both love to spend time with all of us.

We rarely miss birthday dinner. Dan and his wife and their two daughters, Jeff and his family, my husband, daughter and me…and our mom, cooking away all day to make sure birthday dinner would be perfect. She is the thread that weaves us all together. She is responsible for us all being not just family, but also friends.

My birthday is this weekend. We will be gathering for my own birthday dinner. I can hardly wait. 

A few of us from this year!