Caffeinated musings on my place within Judaism, feminism and community. Pontification on political and social topics. Definitely not decaf.

11 August 2006

Kosher Kona Coffee

Family vacations and family dynamics don't mix. Good thing there's good coffee to numb the pain.

Topics currently under consideration: how to be a Jew in paradise? Apparently paradise is somewhere west of Yiddenville. Although the local grocery store has a kosher section (a couple of jars of gefilte fish - in the land of nothing but fish, soup mix and Kedem grape juice) and the natural food store down the way has loads of hechsered stuff, it's not like one can wake up and wander to the closest shul. Makes for a long Shabbos. And, don't even get me started when um, more intimate halachic issues are involved.

But, those problems aside (sushi is great here and the Kona coffee keeps Tall Latte fully caffeinated), it's been a nice vacation. Well...except for...

  • DH's phone and email going constantly thanks to the ongoing problems at home - and a few new anti-Semetic incidents to keep him on his toes.
  • Sunburns, sun rash, and too much sun
  • Tons of research for my paper not getting done
  • Overtired kids
  • And the piece de resistance: family mishegas

This trip was to celebrate my parents' big anniversary. Rather than a party, they brought all the kids and grandkids to the tropics for a get-together. They rented a lovely house which accommodated everyone and they paid for the flights. Now, I get to pay for the therapy.

It’s tough when parents play favorites. It’s tough when it’s so obvious when they praise certain grandchildren and not others or all equally. It’s tough when they express appreciation for everything for some of their kids and in-laws and not others.

There’s something about hearing your spouse being criticized for working too much. “Why can’t he let someone else do it? Why can’t he unplug? Why is he always working?”

Um maybe because people are counting on him – the Jewish people are counting on him – and because he’s dedicated to what he does? Gee, a little praise for all that he’s doing rather than kvetching might be a start.

There’s something about hearing that one sibling is “more Jewish” so any questions have to be asked only of that one sibling. DH is wearing a hat to cover his head and that’s too affected. Other members of the family are wearing kippot – but that’s OK.

There’s something about hearing another grandchild referred to as “my special one” in front of your own child, who then turns to you and says, “I used to be the special one.” It breaks your heart.

So, what have I learned from this experience?
1. No more family vacations with the ganse mishpocha…the psychological damage is just too great for those in MY family – DH, kids and myself. I cannot allow my family to be subjected to passive aggressive BS, favoritism and constant criticism. This was supposed to be a fun family vacation not a gripe session.
2. Time vacations better to minimize personal halachic concerns…but then, I said this last year, too…
3. Enjoy paradise (snorkel gear, check; sunscreen, double check; aloe for the sunburn, triple check) but figure out how to balance the tropical life with the Torah life.

01 August 2006

But I play one on TV

So if I want to see DH these days I have to log on to the ‘net, read the paper or turn on the TV. While it’s great that he’s bringing attention to the very real issue of security for our Jewish institutions, it’s not so great in terms of being a spouse and parent.

Example: tomorrow we’re all supposed to leave for a family vacation. It’s been planned for a year. The siblings, nephews and parents are all converging in a tropical locale for some togetherness, R&R and cousin bonding time. I’ve even prepared in advance of said family time by scheduling a session with my counselor upon my return. How’s that for planning.

Example: grad school doesn’t stop in the summer. I have a major theory paper due at the end of the month. So much for collaboration as my topic as discussed before. It was back to the drawing board and on to leadership, since that’s the topic I’m teaching in October. Made sense to “double dip” vis à vis the research. Plus there’s this new book I really wanted to get on Jewish approaches to leadership. Since I was originally interested in the topic of servant leadership, as one theory, here's my chance to look for Jewish alternatives and approaches to leadership.

Example: bedtimes. #1 and #2 would stay up all night. Only Abba can get them into bed before midnight. But if Abba isn't around, some how threatening, cajoling, bribing and pleading doesn't seem to do the trick. I can't convince either #1 or #2 to get some sleep so on the morrow they won't be threatening, cajoling, bribing and pleading with me on every single subject.

Now looking at our community...

Tragedies have the potential to bring out the best in people – and the worst. You read about these situations (hopefully more good than bad) each day in Jewish press. No surprises there. We all know the media will drop a story as soon as something more flashy or sordid comes along.

But, back home, we're all left holding the bag – and each other. I can only hope that in the days, weeks and months ahead our community can reassess and reprioritize. As I sit here, on the cusp of Tisha B'Av, I remember some childhood stories: Kamsa and Bar Kamsa and the one about feathers and lashon hara. I also comfort in the tale of two brothers. Obviously the first two are cautionary tales: don't do this at home folks. The third illustrates and reminds us of our potential. It's how we should act – even if, too often, we miss the mark.

Even though we're tired here, stretched thin and doing our best to pull together, may we focus our efforts on acting like those two brothers. If we have any hope of achieving peace and learning to understand each other, this is the only way.