Archive for the ‘achievement’ Category

I have a cold. My throat is really sore and goopy and I am wiped and achy. The sore throat started Monday evening. I only arrived home Friday evening. I swear, the moment I saw my chidren they must have infected me.

Both Maya and Asher were home Monday for supposed illness, but they got awfully perky and annoying and I regretted letting them stay home. The next day, Maya was fine and Asher was much worse. He stayed home again and acted as a sick child should, lying around like a blob and sleeping a lot. The two of us crawled into my bed an snoozed away a good part of the day. Now he’s back to his old self and I still feel like crap.

Part of the crappy feeling might be that I am officially painkiller-free. I’d like to say I am drug-free, but they have me on a great pile of other things, so I can’t. Anyway, I kept forgetting to take the painkiller on time the last few days and didn’t notice much of a difference, so my last dose wore off at around 1 am and I haven’t taken any since. It might not sound like a lot of time to you, but to me it is huge. I haven’t gone this long without taking those stupid narcotics since the doctor put me on them, several years ago.

My goal in getting off the heavy stuff was to avoid withdrawal as much as possible. I have experienced it several times (when I would forget to take my pills on time for some reason and a couple times in the hospital when they messed up my dosing) and it sucks in a very big way. I had a big argument in the hospital with J over this, as he wanted me to go cold turkey and get it over with. I kept saying, “I’m not going through withdrawal. I’m weaning slowly,” like a broken record, or possibly a stubborn child. The pharmacist came up to talk about it and said both our arguments had merit and I told her, “But I’m the patient and he isn’t and I’m not going through withdrawal.” I already have enough shit to deal with.

I think he secretly thought I would drag my feet at the end, that the closer I got, the slower I’d go. He underestimated my will to be free of this stuff.

So I am happy to report no withdrawal symptoms so far, just crappy FMS ones. I love spring (who doesn’t?) but it is hell on my body. I think I’ll take a nice little nap.  


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The first bat mitzvah I attended was that of the daughter of one of J’s colleagues. I didn’t know the kid or the synagogue. It was an eye-opening experience.

It was an Orthodox synagogue, one that would probably be described as ‘Modern Orthodox.’ So I wasn’t particularly surprised that the bat mitzvah was on Saturday evening, rather than during a service. The rest of the experience was a surprise, though.

The kid read a couple of prayers (which could have taken her all of half an hour to learn, as she went to Jewish day school and had been taking Hebrew for 7 years at that point). She then made a speech. I expected a speech on the parsha (Torah portion) of the week, but nope, she just picked a topic. Thirteen years have elapsed between then and now and I still remember that topic clearly. It was: What Golda Meir Means to Me.

Even accounting for the fact that the kid was 12 years old, it was lame. It sounded just like the essay Maya wrote not long ago on why Meir is a Jewish hero, which took her a day to write. Golda Meir is an easy bulls-eye as far as proving Jewish heroism.

After her speech, the rabbi came up and praised her for all her hard work, and I couldn’t help but wonder how he said that with a straight face. I couldn’t imagine that he really thought this child was so intellectually weak that this paltry effort should be praised as hard work. He gave her a pair of candlesticks and we all went and had lunch in the elaborately-decorated events room.

I know that different Orthodox communities celebrate bat mitzvahs in very different ways and I don’t know all of them, so please don’t view this as a condemnation of all Orthodox bat mitvahs, but I did look at this one and vow that any daughter I had would not be treated as such an intellectual light-weight.

I was talking recently with the wife of a Hasidic rabbi and asked her if they did bat mitvzahs for the girls. They did, she said, then went on to describe pretty much what I’d witnessed at this other place. She went on to tell me that in the classes she taught, she concentrated on how to be a good Jewish adult and woman and proffered the opinion that the girls’ experiences were actually more meaningful than that of the boys, as the boys were so busy stressing out over learning the Cantillation and their Torah portion that they couldn’t absorb any deeper lessons on becoming a Jewish adult.

I think she’s selling both the boys and the girls short, as I think there is enough room in the average kid’s brain to learn how to chant Torah and how to be a good Jew, all at the same time. I confess, I did not tell her so.

She also told me that the girls are delighted to not have to go through the trials of learning how to read the Torah. I believed that. A couple of years ago, after witnessing her cousin’s bar mitzvah, Maya announced she wasn’t having one. Shyer then than now, she watched him up there in front of everyone, chanting and even occasionally making a small slip-up, only to be saved by the rabbi, and decided she would die if forced to do that.

I told her that she had no choice. She’s Jewish, therefore she is having a bat mitzvah. “I’m converting to Christianity then,” she announced. You can’t, I told her. “You converted to Judaism!” she argued. I lied: “I know. You can convert to Judaism, but not out of it.”

After sulking for a few moments, she said, “Fine. But I’m not chanting Torah.”

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are.”

“Girls don’t have to!”

“Other girls don’t have to. You do.”


“Because I said so.”

“That’s not a reason!”

“You’ll thank me when you are older.”

“No I won’t.”

But I believe she will. I’ve seen the pride, relief and accomplishment on the faces of kids who have just successfully completed their Torah portions. I’ve felt it to, after I read from the Torah in Israel. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in struggling with something truly difficult and mastering it, then demonstrating that mastery in front of your whole community. I cannot help but think that while the girls who do nothing more than a prayer or two and a speech on what Golda Meir means to them might initially feel relieved to have avoided all the hard work they see their brothers doing, ultimately they realize they’ve been dissed. Their community is subtly sending the message that they can’t cope with anything more.

I know that isn’t what those communities intend. They are doing their best to get around the problem that they believe fundamentally that girls cannot touch the Torah while at the same time trying to give them the same sense of welcome into adulthood the boys have – different, but equal is the phrase they like to use. But of course, it isn’t equal, not when it takes a boy a year or two to prepare for his coming-of-age, and the girl really needs no more than a month or two for hers.

So, despite all the stress I’m facing preparing for Maya’s bat mitzvah, schleping her to shul school, the inevitable battles over practicing her Torah and Halftorah portion, the nerves that will no doubt be involved, I’m still grateful to be doing this.

I can’t wait to see the look of pride, relief and achievement on my daughter’s face, well earned.

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Thirteen Things about just making it up
I’ve been feeling crappy this week, as I think my last post subtly hinted at. The constant anxiety is getting me down, so I’ve decided that this week’s Thursday Thirteen will be thirteen achievements of which I’m proud, in chronological order:

1. When I was a kid, there was a big charity fundraiser called ‘Meters for Millions.’ To raise money, people pledged you per kilometer and you tried to walk all 50 kilometers in one day. The more you walked, the more you raised. The first year I did it (I think I was 10), I made it 17 km before I quit. The next year, I made it the whole way. It took all day. My friend, my brother and I walked for hours and hours, changing socks and hardly stopping once we realized that stopping caused our legs to stiffen and our feet to swell. Making it to the finish line in the dusk felt great.

2. I started writing a journal at the age of 16, and I’m still at it. I have my entire life written down. I don’t know what good it does me (besides keeping me honest about myself), but it still feels like an accomplishment.

3. When I was 18 and home alone one evening, I stayed up late watching movies and a drunken idiot tried to break into the house. Fortunately, we had an alarm system that he triggered, so the cops did arrive. But before they did so, he had managed to open a window of our basement rec room and was calling me names as he tried to make his way past the wires of the security system. Instead of feeling fear and cowering in the bathroom, which is would I would have expected of myself, I got very angry. I found my brother’s hunting knife (he didn’t hunt, just collected) and stood under the window with it telling the guy to get the fuck out of my house. The cops arrived and grabbed him before there was any real stand-off, but I was still empowered by my lack of fear.

4. In my undergraduate, I became the Chair of the History Undergraduate council. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but at Queen’s, they took these councils very seriously. I reorganized it to great kudos from the professors, and wallowed in praise all year. My success even earned me a place on a panel to select a new Department Chair, the only student invited. It went a long way to making me a lot less shy and giving me confidence in my own leadership and management abilities. I wish I used those abilities more right now.

5. I completely my Masters in History in 1 year (the only one in my year to do so), including a thesis.

6. I wrote a second Master’s thesis in Journalism.

7. Two of my three children were born without any pain meds at all, and with the last birth, I didn’t even consider asking for them. I actually think that pain meds have a reasonable place in childbirth when used judiciously. But I didn’t really need them and I’m proud of myself for making it through the pain without them.

8. I am a trained doula. Helping a couple have a better birth experience always feels like an enormous achievement.

9. I’m not a trained lactation consultant (although I’d like to be), but I have gone to great lengths to help women breastfeed. (I once got up at 6:30 am, threw the infant Boo in the car, drove two hours to another city, spent the day in the hospital with a friend who had just given birth and was having trouble breastfeeding, and then drove two hours back that night. I was wiped, but she nursed him until he was 2, so it was obviously worth it.) Knowing I’ve helped women successfully breastfeed also feels like an enormous achievement.

8. I had a column in the newspaper for the summer, which I loved. Then the section got a new editor and that was the end of that, but it sure was fun while it lasted. I rambled on like I do here, only they paid me. Dream job.

10. Last spring, I went from a shaky ability to read modern Hebrew (which has vowel symbols to make it easier) to reading the stylized Hebrew of the Torah in a few weeks, so I could read a portion at a service in Jerusalem. I didn’t learn to chant it, but given the brief period of time I had to learn it, I was still hugely proud of myself. I stood at the Southern Wall of the Second Temple and read Torah. How cool is that?

11. My kids’ school has a service where the lifeguards at the adjacent community centre will come pick up your kids if you have them registered in swimming lessons after school. Then you just have to come get them afterward. Last year, near the end of the session, as I was getting them dressed to go, the lifeguard that usually got the kids over and ready for lessons came up to me and said, “I just want to tell you that you have the nicest, most well-behaved children I have ever met. I don’t know what you are doing right, but keep doing it.” I’ve gotten comments like that before, from store clerks and the like. Of course, my children can be horribly rotten and there are times that all I get from store clerks are evil glares, but the fact that sometimes they can behave beautifully, so beautifully that people comment on it, warms my maternal heart.

12. Having never gone in front of a TV camera before, I began producing and hosting a cable TV show with 4 days notice. I’m still at it, and I’ve gotten better, and so has the show.

13. I managed to marry a man I not only still love, but like as well. I raised children I both love and like. I have a nice house and a garden I’m very proud of, and a dog who mostly doesn’t jump up on people.

Well, I’m not sure if this made me feel any better about myself, or just like a big braggart, but I wrote it, so now I’m posting it. It is what it is.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

1. Pass the Chocolate

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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