the gregarious homebody

Monday, December 29, 2008

Growing up Jewish in The Christmas City

Every year I am sensitive to the fact that my children are two of only a few, comparatively, Jewish kids in our town, beseiged by the Christmas trees and Santa of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Do they feel left out? Are they sad they don't have all the trimmings? Will they abandon their Jewish roots when they get older and have a choice? I've asked my kids the first two questions (afraid to even approach the 3rd) . Their answer? That yes, they wish that Christmas day meant something more to them, but mostly because their friends aren't available to spend time with them and because we don't have people at our house celebrating.

We do make a big deal about Hanukkah every year, inviting tons of friends (mostly not Jewish) to join in our own celebration. The kids love it. I think they like being different because, so far, being different in this way is way cool to their friends. As in: Eight days of presents? Awesome. Getting days off for Jewish holidays AND Christian ones? So lucky. Having a bar mitzvah party? Wow.

And, as I've found with most of the parenting issues I've come up against so far, the "problem" is really my own. My kids are growing up with being Jewish as much a part of them as having curly hair or being tall. It's just a part of who they are. Not something to really think/worry/agonize over. Some of their friends have straighter hair than they do. A lot of them are shorter. Most of them aren't Jewish. No big deal. But for me, it is a big deal because I chose to be Jewish.

I grew up, not as a Christian really, but as a Christmas Celebrater. Both my parents were questioners of faith at the very least, but very into the secular part of the holiday season. My dad who was at times when I was little, a difficult, surly man, became a complete mush at this time of year. While he did very little to involve himself in the daily grind in the lives of his children, every year he dressed up as Santa Claus and tapped on the windows of not only our house but all my friends' houses so that we could get just a glimpse of Christmas magic. He loved it as much as we did.

So when I made the decision to convert at 21 years old, it was a huge deal. I was very dedicated to my decision. I loved Judaism at once--for the traditions, for the reason that it was a part of the religion to question everything. My parents were totally supportive of my decision. They didn't particularly understand why I felt the need to make the change because of their own ideas about faith and organized religion, but they respected my choice because it was mine. The only snag was when Christmas came around and my dad, aka Santa, would say "I don't know why you can't have a tree. The Hafetz's had one!" I'd carefully explain that even though our family didn't think of Christmas as a religious holiday, I did. And as for the Hafetz's? I had no idea what to say (other than bursting out a few times "They're not real JEWS!"--whatever the hell that meant).

That was hard for me, but my dad didn't say it because he was cruel. He knew that I cried the whole ride home from their house those first five Christmases. I WANTED a tree. I WANTED all the pomp and tradition. But I knew deep down that it would be harder to give it up again once we had kids and besides, I'd made my decision anyway. And even though it was annoying at the time when I'd say to my husband, "Can't we have one just this year?" I'm glad he was firm in his opinion that even though he was completely fine with us celebrating with my parents at their house, he didn't want a tree or any other Christmas stuff in his house.

So 17 years later, I feel about Christmas the same way I guess that other Jews do. It's beautiful in our city with all the decorations. I like the music for the most part, penned mostly by fellow members of the tribe, by the way, and hey, of course I look forward to the food. But it no longer really makes me feel sad when I think about how my son, when he was small, would play Guess Who's a Jew by Finding the House with No Decorations (it used to go something like this: "Oh look, Mommy! That house must be Jewish! Oh, darn. They have a wreath..."). We're lucky to have eight beautiful nights of lighting the candles and making our own traditions that our kids will remember if they have children of their own.

AND we don't have the pressure of making it all fabulous and meaningful and special for one single day. We get to spread it out. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

While I cream the eggs and sugar, this face is staring up at me:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holy @$%&, the Sequel

Called up, rather casually, to make my appointment to take the GRE's and, holy shit, the office in Allentown didn't have any openings until JANUARY 13!!!!

So I'm travellin' down to Conshohocken on Monday, the 5th. Fun.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I just found out that I can't be so casual about taking the GRE's. I was going to give myself a goal of "late January" and it turns out it MUST be early January because my application has to be in by FEB 1. AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Some Cool Vegetables I've Wanted to Post and a Couple More Gratutious Annie Pictures

Here is a picture of my favorite Dollar Tree mug. It is a large mug.
Next to it are two sweet potatoes.

One of them is normal-sized.

Why plant carrots that are reddish-purple outside
even though they're a normal orange color inside?
Because they are cool and named Purple Haze.

My gardening technique is very scientific.

Annie, meeting Molly and Pam,
who brought a "baby gift" for her and one for her "brother," Muttel.

My friends are as crazy as I am
and I love them for it.

Annie goes to Mrs. Wagner's class.
Mrs. Wagner, pictured here, is way too attractive
to be an elementary teacher.

The kids loved meeting Annie

and I was very pleased that she didn't return the love

by leaving a "present" on the floor.

One kid kept saying "EWWWWW!!" at the top of her lungs
everytime Annie gave someone a kiss.
This kid doesn't have a dog at home.

I think not allowing a child to have a pet is
a particularly nasty form of child abuse.

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Honey and Dash of Chocolate

It's hard to tell how tiny she is here.

This one is definitely being made into a 5X7, possibly in black and white.

Poor Gibson. What this picture doesn't show is my hands clutching him to make him stay still and his claws digging into the comforter.

Snuggling on the "coma bed"

BA (Before Annie), Muttel dressed for Halloween as a sushi chef

I am soooo going to be one of those crazy dog ladies when my kids move out (going to be??).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Full Circle

this could be me at home or at Pi Phi. there is no difference.
from here

I chose my major in college for the final time (after dabbling in Radio Television and Film for a semester freshman year and then choosing Sociology because...I have no idea...) in my sophomore year because I had decided I wasn't going to actually *use my degree because I wanted to be a pastry chef. My parents wisely convinced me to continue towards my degree just to have one while I went to cooking school on the weekends. So I chose Women's Studies because it had classes that sounded interesting.

And most of them were. I took loads of literature classes--British Women Writers, Carribean Women Writers, Black Women Writers--because I've always loved to read. I was introduced to "classics" that probably still aren't recognized as such but that sit on my bookshelves next to Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. I learned about women's economic frailties should their husbands leave them. I experienced and studied the psychology of eating disorders in young women. These classes were enlightening.

Some classes were boring but necessary evils. Statistics was one of them. It was very frustrating to slog through a class I was certain I'd never need. It felt like the math section of the SAT's.

So I graduated with a BA in Women's Studies and went to work as a pastry chef right afterwards. I worked long hours on my feet and learned, among many things, a whole lot about how not to run a business, how to make beautiful edible art, and perhaps most importantly, that a degree in Life and Common Sense was as important as a "real" degree, if one did not want to have one's head up one's ass forever.

Then after having my kids and staying home with them (some of my professors would've been HORRIFIED at this decision; others thought like I do, that being able to have a CHOICE was the entire point), I got back out there and, after a couple different cooking forays, found myself at a sorority.

I've mentioned before that I was at first extremely hesitant about working for such an antiquated social set-up for women. "I have a degree in Women's Studies for christ's sake," I'd say. And while I see life more in shades of gray now (like, not all sorority girls are bimbos) than when I was in college myself, I'm sometimes unsure about how I feel about Greek life. There are a whole lot of things wrong with it; like almost everything being organized around alcohol and a serious lack of social structure when it comes to romantic relationships. But I see the positives too. Sisterhood, tradition...and a place to relax and just be a girl. They put up a strong front, these girls, but deep down, many of them are still unsure of themselves and just trying to become grown up women of some substance.

So now I've decided to make a change that will send me back to my roots a bit. I'm going to go back to school to get a Master's in Education Student Affairs Administration. Not exactly Women's Studies, but I think I'd like to use the degree to ultimately work in a women's center on a college campus. I've loved getting to know girls this age and I think I have an affinity for this kind of work. I love being involved, even in a small way, in a such a pivotal point of their lives.

So I'm glad (sort of) I took (and PASSED--yay!) Statistics. And it turns out that math does mean something at least as far as I have to know it for GRE's *gulp*.

Best of all, my dad is THRILLED that he paid for a degree that I'm actually going to use.

*this was a proud moment for my parents.


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