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Jan. 5th, 2010

A Tree in Israel

Adventures in Work-Appropriate Head Covers

I really need some hats. A black beret, for example, would go perfectly with my outfit today, and I wouldn't have to wear a slippery scarf of a beautiful cream color that just exactly clashes with my skin tone.

I wore a lovely burgundy scarf yesterday, which actually looked nice. Trouble was, I was constantly fidgeting to make sure it was on properly (thus ensuring that I moved it out of position). I retied it in the afternoon, tightly enough to earn myself a headache.

I'm sure that I'll get used to the sensation eventually, but I've always taken a minimalist approach to my hair. I love the idea of escaping those dread bad hair days, but my collection of silky little wisps of scarves is not easing my morning routine much...
 

Jan. 4th, 2010

A Tree in Israel

Shabbat list

During the kiddush following services, a friend mentioned that she keeps a frequently updated list of all the people she and her husband plan to invite to Shabbat dinner. I really need to get on that, I thought.

So, last night during dinner, H-M and I came up with our Shabbat invitee list, which spans two synagogues, two workplaces, and any number of Jewish and non-Jewish friends.

I was hoping to overcome our recent tendency to invite more people than we can actually talk to during dinner, but if we're going to accomplish this list, we're still going to have to invite more people per dinner than we have chairs to seat!

On a side note, I decided to wear a scarf to cover my head yesterday. Not a full on tichel or anything - more like a wide headband.

"So," I said to Mr. H-M, "aren't you going to tell me how unattractive I look?"

"Huh?" replied Mr. H-M, startled. "Is that what you meant when you said you're going to cover your hair?"

"It's one of the ways."

"Oh," he said, clearly surprised.

So maybe this won't be so bad after all. Although, I do love hats...


 
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Jan. 3rd, 2010

Esther

Hat Trick

I have long been attracted to the idea of covering my head as a sign of respect and reverence. I wore a kippah to Jewish events almost before I took on any actual mitzvot. For the past year, my notion of "Jewish event" has greatly expanded. "Will there be Jews there?" is the primary question. Or, sometimes: "Could there be Jews there?"

Two of my friends recently took on covering their heads full-time when they got married. I had played with this notion myself for a while, thinking it was something I might do "eventually," but their example has made me consider my time frame more seriously. For a while, I thought I too would begin covering my head when I got married. But that seems silly to me now. Unlike my newly wed friends, I'm not entering into this endeavor with a partner. It won't be a symbol of our joint commitment to Judaism.

And, honestly, who's getting married anyway? No, my decision to wear kippot is about me, my identity, my desire for a physical reminder that there are greater things in heaven and earth than me and my ego. So, yesterday, at some point during Shabbat services, I decided that my 30th birthday next month would be the perfect time to begin wearing kippot full time. What better symbol of entering a new stage of adulthood?

When I arrived home from services, I mentioned my intentions to H-M, who had an adverse reaction (to say the least). H-M has often expressed distaste for my notions of covering my hair (part of the religious patriarchy that marginalizes women, of course), but I didn't think that a decision to wear kippot and hats would hit him the same way.

"It just feels so...Orthodox," he said with a grimace.

Since when does a woman wearing a kippah full-time smack of Orthodoxy?

"I just don't like hats. I think they're really unattractive."

Well, thanks, sweetie. It's good to know that you're going to find me unattractive for large quantities of the day. I guess I could take on other expressions of my spiritual commitment: how does shomer negiah strike you?

Amazingly, I'm not angry or hopeless about our future. I'm not sure why, but this past week I've felt strangely optimistic about our relationship. (Or maybe it's just that I feel optimistic about my life no matter what happens to this relationship.) I still intend to wear kippot (and hats and scarves), and it will be interesting to see how H-M and I work out a symbol that clearly has such different connotations for us.
 

Dec. 31st, 2009

A Tree in Israel

Secular New Year's Resolutions

Because, you can't have too many fresh starts!

In the past, I've had a complex resolution-reward system.

Resolution: work out four days a week.
Reward: buy new work out clothes.

Resolution: meditate twenty minutes every day.
Reward: buy some of those loose leaf teas I drool over in the bulk section.

This year, I'm keeping things simple. My resolution is to build my relationships with my friends and family. Here's my plan:
  • I will devote at least two week nights a month to spending time with friends.
  • I will invite friends over at least once a month for an informal get-together. (This in addition to the two week nights.)
  • I will respond to at least three Facebook friends' updates every week.
  • I will call my father at least once every two weeks. (And visit him!)
  • I will host a Shabbat dinner at least once every two months and invite someone new each time!
I figure that if I can keep these resolutions, that will be reward enough!
 

Dec. 30th, 2009

A Tree in Israel

Eating the Goat

I realize that I'm a voyeur when it comes to social media: I read blogs and forums and rarely comment. But I read a post today that touches on one of my favorite rants - sustainable meat - and I took the plunge of responding.

The post is on The Jew and the Carrot and tells the story of a past Hazon conference in which a sustainably raised goat was ritually slaughtered and served for dinner. The author points out that even though he's a vegetarian, he is still responsible for the death of goats (and other domestic animals) because raising animals for milk means that male offspring are slaughtered for meat.

Here's my take, which I'm proud to say I posted:

The beautiful thing about belonging to a species of omnivore is that we are able to make choices about what we eat…and know that someone else can choose what we reject. I often say that I would gladly eat meat if it were sustainably and humanely raised and slaughtered but that I’m too cheap and lazy to buy and prepare the meat (not to mention go through the cost and hassle of converting my simply milchig kitchen to something that can handle the odd goat or chicken). I know that eating eggs and dairy necessitates slaughtering livestock, and I also know that slaughter is part of the natural life cycle of species that exist because of their relationship to human consumption. (Domestic chickens and cattle certainly aren’t going to cut it in the wild; their circle of life is inextricably bound to ours.) All the same, I’d probably pass on the goat, safe in the knowledge that – with all the card carrying carnivores – he’s not going to waste.

 
Esther

He's Just Not That Into You

Now that I've returned to my journal, I am forced to view the last post I wrote, with the unfortunate title, "Am I getting the hang of this?"

It is all too apparent to me that I have not.

I do love my home - a "charming" one bedroom condo right on the Burke-Gilman trail. I do love my job. I love my shul and the wonderful friends I've made there. (One of whom friended me on LiveJournal, which I didn't even notice until today. Sorry, Shoshie!) But for all the happiness and sense of purpose that those facets of my life have brought me, I've spent a good part of the past two years anxious, despondent, and frequently miserable.

I never, ever, ever thought I would join my sisters in cliche, weeping into a pint of Ben & Jerry's and turning to Bridget Jones as a role model. But, here I am: nearly thirty, unmarried, and sometimes hating myself for it. Thanks to Facebook, I am blessed with wedding and baby photos on a daily basis. Hardly a week goes by without some new engagement or pregnancy to kvell (and, secretly, cry) over. Relationships that began when H-M and I had been dating a year have already led to weddings.

All the rationalization in the world about maturity and timing fades to an annoying buzz (if it's even that loud) when confronted with what feels like a surer truth: I am not wanted.

 

Dec. 28th, 2009

A Tree in Israel

Shabbat in Portland

H-M and I left for Portland Friday morning, having secured through luck and Priceline the most Shabbas-friendly hotel imaginable. Each room in the hotel - Marriot's Residence Inn - contains a small kitchen: full-size fridge, dishwasher, sink, toaster, microwave, stove-top, pots, pans, dishes, etc. Our room also had a dining table, already set with wine glasses.

Having prepared all the food in advance, we were able to take a long stroll along the waterfront before returning to our room for candlelighting. For my birthday, H-M gave me travel-sized Shabbat candlesticks that twist together and store in a little velvety blue pouch. These jostle in a brightly patterned sack along with a folded piece of foil (for any wax drippings), full-sized Shabbat candles, a small canister of salt, a book of matches, two benchers, two kippot, a little bag of spices, a havdallah candle, and a grape juice box. I've already taken my Shabbas sack on the go half a dozen times! This was the first time, though, that they graced a real table (as opposed to a campground picnic table) with real wine glasses and a real bottle of wine!

Naturally, after our long walk, we were ready for an early Shabbas schluff. A couple of restful hours later, we were ready to make kiddush. Having experienced my earlier efforts at baking challah, H-M was surprised to see two beautiful golden loaves underneath the napkin, and we were both surprised that they tasted lovely. Not quite as soft a crumb as I would have liked, but given that I used all-purpose rather than bread flour, that was not unexpected. The meal: a hearty tomato-bean soup, double-crusted escarole pizza, chickpea latkes, and wintry salad with apples, blue cheese, walnuts, red-onions, and a maple-mustard dressing was filling and tasty.

After dinner, we played games and - talk about day of rest! - soaked in the hotel's hot tub. Shabbat shalom!

The next day, after partaking of the enormous breakfast buffet, we walked to a downtown Reconstructionist synagogue, Havurah Shalom. Services were nice, pretty similar to what I'm used to at my Conservative shul. I wasn't surprised that there was no musaf service, but I didn't expect that the Torah service would conclude without a haftorah and go straight to the aleinu. There was no kiddush lunch after services, and after watching people cluster with their friends over kiddie cups of Manischewitz and bites of bagel (ha-mezanot, apparently, due to the high sugar content), H-M and I departed for our walking tour.

H-M had researched a handful of Portland walking tours and selected the longest, most brutally uphill one because the synagogue was right on the way. So, we began our climb to Pittock Mansion. At the top, we surveyed the sweeping view of the Cascades, framed in a cloudless blue sky. Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and even Mount Rainier were clear and distinct, a chorus line of snow-capped beauties. We made a picnic of fruit and leftover escarole pie on a nearby bench overlooking the scene, which sounds cozy and picturesque but in reality involved huddling into coats and alternating which hand held food and which could be shielded from the biting cold and wind.

After lunch, I put on an extra pair of gloves, and we began our hike back to the hotel through Forest Park. We ambled through the outskirts of the Arboretum and wound through the spiral Vietnam Memorial and had a brief sojourn on the light rail (after a terrifying drop down the longest elevator shaft I've ever had the misfortune to experience) before returning to our room, shedding our coats, and making a beeline back to the hot tub. Ahhhhhhh.

Perfect.
 

Dec. 23rd, 2009

A Tree in Israel

Challah in the Oven

I've been a pretty terrible blogger. My blog has gone the way of my paper journals, which I once added to every day and now have abandoned entirely. It's been almost a year since my last post.

But that's okay. The gates of teshuvah are always open, and my LiveJournal password still works.

Right now, I'm on winter break. Without a day defined by class periods, I'm reveling in the joy of a self-set schedule. This morning, I went to minyan at my shul. There were exactly 10 of us; there's something so gratifying about knowing that someone could say Kaddish only because you dragged yourself out of your warm bed on a cold, slightly rainy morning.

Since I returned home, I've been planning my upcoming unit on persuasive writing and baking challah. Talk about melding holy ways with secular days.

Putting the lesson planning aside, I need to confess something. I suck at making challah. This is pretty embarrassing for someone loves to cook and bake and goes to morning minyan during winter break. I know why I suck: I have little to no challah baking experience. My previous two attempts ended miserably, so I didn't dare risk my skills for a hosted Shabbat dinner. And, with few exceptions, every Shabbat dinner at home has been a hosted dinner! Quite the turnaround for shy little me!

But I want to be a great challah baker, so I'm biting the yeasty bullet. So now, four little loaves (single-strand braids, courtesy of A Blessing of Bread author Maggie Glezer) are cooling on a rack, cute as swaddled babes. Two of these challot are destined for Friday night dinner, which will be celebrated in a hotel room in Portland where, ahem, Mr. Hottie Man and I will be taking a mini-vacation. As for the other two...well, if all goes well this Friday, I suppose the other two loaves can make a debut at the dinner we're hosting next Friday.

Will the challot be tasty? Tender? Edible? Stay tuned...

Jan. 12th, 2008

A Tree in Israel

Am I getting the hang of this?

There's this feeling I've been having for the past two or three months. An odd, unfamiliar feeling. If had I to put a name to it, I'd say I feel ... solid. For so much of my life, I've felt afraid of various things (failure, loneliness, airplanes), and now - now I feel like I can actually deal with the varied crises of life. Of course, now that I have the hubris to say this, I'll get whammied by the universe and collapse into a quivering pile of goo.

But, you know, I had a lot of change and stress a few months back, and I survived. And I'm happy. Happy with my work, happy with my friends, happy with my place in the world. I feel established. Like I actually have something to contribute.

Huh.

Well, my students lent me Superbad to watch this weekend, so since I've "finished" my Sunday School lesson plans and have nothing better to do (ha!), I think I'll mosey on over to my sofa and give 'er a spin.
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Jan. 6th, 2008

A Tree in Israel

I'm baaack!

So much has happened since I last posted an entry. Most significantly (and in this order):

1) "Chanan" and I broke up. (This is a relatively funny story which I'll discuss in more detail at a later time.)

2) I bought my first home.

3) I met and fell in love with an indescribably wonderful man. (Henceforth known as Mr. Hottie Man.)

More details to follow, but it's past my bedtime.

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