Sights and Vision

You know how when you hear a new word, all of a sudden you hear it everywhere?

It is the same with emotions or family crises.  The more you share, the more you realize what weights others carry daily, just like you.

And then you start to look around at the nameless faces on the subway, young and old, well-dressed and not, white, black, brown and every shade in between.

And then, you wonder, are we carrying similar burdens, like taking care of an ailing elder?  Or worse, a sick child?

And if we are carrying similar burdens, do we also have similar hopes and aspirations? Why else would we be cheek by jowl in a subway car rushing some place?

I surveyed the subway car today.  People with iPhones.  People with ear buds playing music way too loud.  People not moving into the car to let others on.  People having tooooooo much attitude for a crowded mode of transportation.

But, if I talked to each of them, alone and in a quiet room, would I find that 95% of them shared my fears, my sadnesses, and my struggles?  Even if different in degrees?

Aren’t we all more alike than we think?

Vision and Sight

Sometimes I wonder about Judaism.  Some laws are aspirational; others acknowledge the base nature of humanity.  For example, “don’t talk unkindly about the deaf” or “don’t put a stone in the way of the blind”.

Nevertheless, a good reminder.  But there is a greater imperative: guide someone who is blind if requested, or if you think that the offer of guidance would be well-received.

I went to the gym for exactly one-half hour.  (SOB is wearing off on me.)  I stopped at the wine shop because I deserved a treat after so much (okay, so little) exertion.

I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman.  The man was describing the stores to the woman.  He was very formal, as if they hadn’t met before.  I looked back and I saw that the woman had a blind person’s walking stick although her eyes didn’t have the tell-tale signs of long-term blindness.

I slowed my gait to listen.  The man, Richard, was turning left on 97th Street, and the woman, Debra, was continuing on.  On the northwest corner of 97th Street, I introduced myself to them and asked if I could be of assistance.

Debra and I walked along for a block and I described the new stores and the general scene.

Then I asked, “It seems that your blindness is recent.  May I ask what happened?”

“Glaucoma.  It was gradual.  I can see big objects, but I can no longer read.  I am what people call ‘legally blind’.  But I can’t just sit at home.  I have to make the best of it.”

We continue along and I describe the stores and our relative location.  Of course, I can’t ever remember what the new store replaced.  Because I don’t have to rely on my memory rather than my sight.

And people don’t get out of the way of a blind person.  They really need to read the basics of the Hebrew Bible.  Mostly because I was ready to rain down vengeance all over them.

She asks, “is the Starbuck’s still here?”  “Is the jazz club still here?”

I answered her questions.  We talked about family and kids.  She is 61 and her mother is still alive and is inconsolable about her daughter’s glaucoma.

At 106th Street, my turn-off, I decide that Broadway and West End converge in way that is difficult to navigate.  I decide to take her to the Rite Aid on 110th Street, which is her destination.

“Why this Rite-Aid?” I ask.

“I grew up in this neighborhood and now I have moved back.  But the last time I was here was five years ago.  I figured that Broadway on a Sunday in the summer was quiet enough that I would try an adventure.  To be honest, I was relying on nice people in the neighborhood who might help if I needed it.”

I walked her into Rite-Aid.  She blessed me and my family.

But I felt blessed.  Blessed that I don’t have her impairment.  Blessed that two strangers can walk along amiably for a half-mile and both leave the encounter feeling very positive, even if for different reasons.


Fat Deposit?

I have this bump on the palm of my hand.  I wouldn’t have noticed it except I do push-ups (and other torturous exercises to stay in shape), so I am aware of this constant bruised feeling,

I mentioned in passing to POB that the bump hasn’t gone away and the bruised feeling remains (probably because every time I work out with my trainer, I exacerbate the problem).

“Maybe it is a fat deposit.”

WHOA.  I know we are lesbians and we have to fight that creepy urge to merge into one being and all, but who, WHO, said it was ok to suggest that I might have a fat deposit?

In fact, I reviewed our wedding vows, both in Hebrew and in English, and I did not find any authority whatsoever for the proposition that POB could safely (and thus without consequences) intimate that I have a FAT deposit wherever found in my body.  Not even in the innocuous place like the palm of my hand.

In all honesty, I do have some deposits in other parts of my body, which are increasing at the same exponential rate as oil reserves are being depleted.  (Why, oh why, can’t modern science suction cellulite and use it instead of fossil fuels?)  But this is AFTER the wedding, AFTER I fit into an unforgiving dress, AFTER I wore body armor.  So, go on, make my day.  Get a GET (a Jewish religious divorce) at your peril.

I know, I know, POB didn’t suggest I was like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (Chunky Monkey) or suggest the FAT DEPOSIT was in a place that would offend my inner diva.

Ok, it is in my palm.

But it is a fat deposit.  So, POB has to climb out of the ditch on this one.

Maybe I will send her out for Chunky Monkey.  Ahhh, a Pyrrhic Victory if ever there was one.

But a VICTORY nonetheless.  And when you are 40-and-over, every victory counts.


Wedding Dresses Part III

The wedding dresses are coming in two weeks.  Once here, they must be fitted.  And, depending upon how well behaved POB (partner of blogger) and I are, let out a little.  I learned about Spanx which comes in full body casts — I mean, corsets.  I also learned that I cannot wear tennis shoes under my flowing dress.  Really?  Someone is going to make me wear heels on MY wedding day.  Well, yes, if that someone happens to be POB or anyone of the Soeurs (dearest college friends).  For these people, I do what I am told.  SOB (sister of blogger) also can order me around, but thank G-d, she couldn’t care less about these details.  What a wonderful big sister.

Can the wedding come any sooner?  No, actually, because we just decided on the Save the Date cards and we don’t have a band yet.

We have a rabbi, a place, a photographer, a caterer and two unfitted dresses.  I understand that if we weren’t 48 years-old with a child, there would be an epic intervention that might, if televised, rule Sweeps Month.  Thank G-d we are all ready committed and this is just a public and religious affirmation.

Otherwise, I fear Kym Kardashian would be giving me nuptial tips.  Of course, the only thing I know about her is that she had a short-lived marriage after a much celebrated courtship.  So, I don’t need advice from her.  Last thing I need is to try to keep up with the Kardashians.

The Wedding Dress Part II

Dear Mom:

First, I never thought I would get married.  Second, I never thought that if I ever did get married, it would be without you.  I will be 48 (52 if you’ve read my other blog entries) at the wedding, so what did I expect? You ask.  You’re right.  But I am your last born, the baby of the family.  I expected that you would live until, I don’t know, forever.

I know you are hovering in Heaven, but, right now, that is not good enough.  And I am a conscientious objector when it comes to G-d but, because your soul cannot have dissipated into nothingness and because POB (partner of blogger) and I found each other, I hold out some specter of belief in some divinity in a world that is otherwise in decline.  So, it is big that I believe, and this belief thing is, how they say these days, “on you”.

As an aside, does this Jewish guilt work on the other side?  Am I wasting my time here?  Drop a lightening bolt if guilt doesn’t matter in the hereafter.  I won’t tell anyone.  I promise.

So, I couldn’t call you when POB and I found the dresses.  (Did you register any guilt feeling? Ok, I drop the question.)  You would have been so excited about it (and relieved that we didn’t make you schlep to SoHo).  You would ask about the wedding plans and then let your preferences be known in a velvet fist way that sounded soothing yet non-negotiable.  Confrontational and gentle all at the same time.  You should have been Secretary of State.

Thank G-d DOB (Dad of blogger)is healthy (for a 91 year-old) and seems like he will be there, G-d willing.  (There I go again, with the G-d thing.  I might lose my objector status, if this keeps up, so really let me know if guilt works up there.)

Speaking of DOB, I spent Sunday morning trying, in vain, to reconnect him to his email and the internet.  SOS (our son, source of sanity) came with me on this mission of uselessness.  I got DOB all reconnected and did a learning-by-doing tutorial that I custom-tailored for him.  I did that tutorial more times than I can to tell.  Nothing.  NADA.  He can play Free Cell and access his list of  of charitable contributions without assistance.  But, when it comes to the Internet, he can’t really type, he can’t really see the screen and he can’t really understand how to read and send emails.  Still, he is righteously indignant that he doesn’t have much personal email in his inbox.  SOS tried really hard to understand why DOB didn’t really understand computers, the internet or, quite frankly, the 21st century.  Imagine if I listened to BOB (brother of blogger) and tried to get DOB on Facebook.  Neither DOB or I would have survived the attempt.

But I digress.  Back to me. I mean you.  I really mean you and me.

It is crazy how something as anti-feminist as parents walking their child down the aisle seems so quaint and wonderful now.  If only we could hold hands as you walked me down the aisle.  Yes, life has dulled some of my sharp edges and quieted my doctrinaire ways.  Because life, love and loss are complicated and our responses to them are idiosyncratic.

But what is simple is that I wish you were here to celebrate with us.

Really, come visit in my dreams and tell me about guilt in Heaven.  It is the least you could do after having left us almost 9 years ago.  (Did that rate on the Heavenly Guilt-o-Meter? Just asking.  No offense intended.)



It absolutely gets better

As a girl (in the 1960s and 1970s), I was fearless, self-confident and wholly comfortable with my body.  That is, until I became a teenager.  Then, as quickly as a flip of a switch (or so it seemed), everything changed.

Aside from the raging hormones that could have alone turned me into an alien, I had unfamiliar feelings and longings.  And I didn’t fit neatly into the role of a 14 year-old girl who had to wear skirts (dress code) to school.  But, generally, I liked the way I looked.  And I liked the way other girls looked, too.

Except, I was supposed to be looking at boys.  Once I realized my “mistake”, I knew “fitting in” was something I would have to study, like any other subject in school.  And I figured it would be hard, like Biochemistry (yes, I was precocious at 14), but I was smart and a good student.  So, I thought, “I could do this”.

It was harder than Biochemistry and you couldn’t learn it from a book.  My high school girl friends were “into boys” in such a natural, innate way. I withdrew into myself because I knew that this difference was too basic and I couldn’t fake it.  I wouldn’t make close friendships because I had this secret and this unease about where friendships ended and romance could begin.  I needed to keep people at bay.  Invisibility was my goal when it came to talking about boys, what you did with boys, make-up, etc.  Just blend in.

All through high school on Saturday nights, I used to take long walks around the East Side so my parents didn’t know that I was friendless or weary of feeling like the outsider.  Only years later, did I learn that someone else was doing the same thing because she had the same issues, except her route was different enough so that we never bumped into one another.  We would have recognized each other because we knew each other from camp and Hebrew School.

Inside, I was confused and sad and I knew, just knew, that my troubles were my fault.  How could I fix something that I couldn’t even talk about?  I medicated with food and alcohol.  Brilliant.  I added significant weight gain to my problems.  And nothing makes teenage life worse than being fat.  Now I was a liability to be around if you wanted to talk up cute boys.  I was less than background; I was avoided.

I remained heavy through my college years.  I was still struggling with wanting to be straight and not wanting to deal with this horrid, scary secret. On campus, a right-wing newspaper printed the names of the members of the GSSG (Gay Students Support Group).  I was secretly grateful that I was too scared to join.  I remained anonymous but I saw the effects of being “outed” on some of my friends. What happened to them confirmed my every nightmare.  “Out” meant parental disapproval (and worse), no chance of having children and discrimination. I wanted my parents to be proud and I wanted a family.  But I also wanted love.  What did I do to deserve this fate?  I had to have done something so unspeakably wrong to be exiled to a long and lonely road.

But sometimes the desire to feel whole can make a person go to crazy extents.  During college, I kept trying to put myself in situations where I might meet lesbians but only at a distance.  Two girls giggling in a bathroom piqued my interest, but I stayed in the background.  Invisible.  My comings and goings seemed mysterious enough so that my friends assumed that I was a Soviet spy meeting my handler.  No joke.  They still tease me to this day.

When I was graduated in 1985, I resolved to live a double life – try to marry a man and have an emotional (or romantic?) relationship with a woman. I had a hard time keeping up with the lies about why I was a no-show with my college friends or why I spent so much time with a particular woman when my mom would ask. I was a handful of shards of glass, each reflecting a portion of me, but not adding up to the whole.

I joined a gym to relieve some of the stress of my life and because I simply got sick and tired of literally wearing the weight of my troubles. I joined a gym to stop the “you would be so much more attractive if you lost some weight”.  I really channeled my anger and fears into exercise.  I was angry at G-d for making me gay and I was fearful of what would happen if I acted on those feelings.  Maybe you can imagine how sweating buckets can calm you down and make you so tired that you needed to adjourn those quandaries until the next day.  And, the next day, and so on.  I used work-outs at the gym to avoid my issues.  The upside was that I was really getting into good shape.

When I got thin, the family’s mantra “you are so thin and pretty now, I am sure the boys are knocking down your door!” returned.  In truth, I tried boys.  There was one lovely man I came close to marrying.  But he sensed the issues that lay right under the surface and called me on them.  “Do you need to sow some wild oats or should we just not have female housekeepers?”  And then, “should I wait?”  “No,” was my anguished answer.  (“If only you were female,” I thought.)  G-d bless him and his family forever.  (He has a lovely wife and two adult children now.)

In New York City in the 1980s, there were still no positive images of lesbians, let alone images of feminine lesbians. What was I thinking throwing away a solid relationship with a wonderful man? But, he and I both deserved to find our heart’s desires and soul mates.  At least he did; I couldn’t see how I was going to meet someone.  I didn’t want to be with a butch woman; I was a woman who wanted to be with a feminine woman.  They were invisible (unless they were on the arms of butch women). I was looking for a hypothetical feminine, pretty, Jewish (not essential), well-educated, funny and slightly neurotic lesbian.  Whoa, tall order.  I figured I would be alone for the rest of my life.  If it sounds sad, you can be sure that this is an understatement of how I felt.

Somewhere, on the other side of town, was a woman in a relationship who was wondering if she would ever meet her soul mate, her heart’s desire. We would have recognized each other if we met because we knew each other from camp and Hebrew School.

If I was going to leave a relationship with a wonderful man because of this “girl thing”, then it was high time I started gluing the shards of my life together.  Even though my father’s “I would welcome him as a son-in-law” echoed in my head and threatened to push out my brains through my ears, I tried to be open and honest with my family, my friends and, yes, me. And that required coming out.

My told my friend NYCFOB (dear NYC friend of blogger) in a cab, “you know my boyfriend John?  Her name is [girl’s name].”  I could see her brain working; a lot now made sense to her.  “It changes nothing between us,” she said simply.  She gave me a gift of a lifetime – in those few words, she said to me: “I am your friend even if you lied to me because I get that you thought it was necessary.  And I don’t care about the gay thing.”  Then, “who else knows?” She needed to know whom she could call and with whom she could shriek about some serious scoop. I still think she doesn’t know that we know that she has the biggest heart and a wellspring of love and acceptance tucked beneath a New Yorker’s veneer.

As for my parents, let’s just say that their rejection was hurtful and ugly, although it had a happy ending. Imagine a nice Jewish girl whose grandparents were the pre-World War II remnant of Russian Jewry, and parents who were poor children of immigrants of the Depression Era.  That means I was raised to need my parents’ approval on a daily basis.  Imagine that nice Jewish girl being cast out.  The gym was my haven.  I could sweat and lift weights and expel some of the anger and hurt I felt.  As I processed all the changes and charted a rough course for my life, I started not to want to be invisible or ignored anymore.  I had arrived – 115 pounds, toned body, good looks.  I was ready to fit in and conquer all social settings – gay or straight.

So, I joined a hip and groovy gym. It is a rule of life that if your gym is hip and groovy, you will work out in a sea of tall and beautiful women in that blond, willowy way with perfect gym outfits.  I wasn’t ready to be “out” because I still preferred ambiguity. Secretly, I wanted cute boys to talk to me as some sort of vindication of my sexual appeal – that men might want me even if I wanted women.

The muscled, handsome straight (and hell, even gay) guys talked to them and not to me.  Even the trainers didn’t pay attention to me.  I was still invisible. I know it doesn’t make sense, but nothing relating to body image, sexuality, and desire has anything to do with logic.  It was probably because I was too scared that if I came out, there was no going back.

Life got a lot better over the years.  I realized that you have to be a little out in order for people to find you.  Family hurts healed (with my mother’s wanting to ride on our synagogue’s Gay Pride float and my father’s making a huge stone sculpture of two women with a child). I had good romantic relationships (and some horror shows, let’s be honest).  I was happy.  I had friends.  I was an up-and-coming lawyer.  I found my groove.

Still, the gym was complicated. Working out made me feel strong, in control and let me expiate work anxiety and stress.  I started to understand that maybe I didn’t fit in because, for me, the gym was not my primary social outlet.  I went there to get sweaty and release endorphins.  Ahhhhh.  Still, I wanted to be noticed.  I know, I know.  It doesn’t make sense but it is what it is.

At Rosh HaShanah evening services in 1996, I was living the quintessential lesbian drama – my present girlfriend sat to my left and my ex-girlfriend sat to my right.  I was looking up at the ceiling, finally introducing myself to G-d. (This alone should have wiped away my sins for the year.)

In the midst of this bad movie, I heard a singing voice I recognized.  I turned around and I saw her. She was my best friend at sleep-away camp when we were 10 year-olds.  We went to Hebrew School together through senior year at high school.  I thought, “she is too cute to be gay”.  It’s that internalized homophobia ingrained in many of us who came of age in the 20th century and, no matter how we try, it still sometimes slips out.   (And I had very attractive exes.)

I looked for her after services, but she had left in a flash.  Ten days later, at Yom Kippur service, I was carrying the Torah around the synagogue during a ritual where the Torahs are marched around the sanctuary. I saw her again. POB (soon-to-be partner of blogger).  I knew somehow that we were living in parallel bubbles that “kissed” ever so slightly over the years.  We were both in relationships and just looking for friendship.

Our friendship was deep and supportive.  We leaned on each other when things got hard in our relationships.  We pushed each other to re-invest our emotions in those long-term relationships.  Nevertheless, our relationships ended between 1998 and 1999.  In spring of 2000, we realized that we were each other’s intended ones.  We fell into a happy rhythm of life together and started to think about having a baby.

Still, the gym was an important part of my life.  Sometimes we would go to the gym together after work, around 8pm.  We didn’t work out together; we needed our separate areas at the gym. I was working out the toxicity of life as a young partner in a law firm; she was just getting a fitness work out.

Then my mother had a recurrence of breast cancer.  I needed a punching bag and boxing gloves.   Our gym had those.  I watched others and then just copied them.  Tears would stream.  The rings on my fingers under the boxing gloves cut into my flesh.  I was bleeding and I was punching G-d as hard as I could.  In summer 2002, POB and I had a little boy.  In January 2003, my mother died.  I needed to punch out my unspeakable pain and sadness, but with newborn and two working moms, there was no time for the gym.

2002 through 2008 were rough years.  Setting aside various economic and professional upheavals (which don’t matter much in the end, anyway), POB’s mother’s chronic illness worsened to a point that hospital stays on respirators were not uncommon.  Ultimately, she died.  Our son presented with some developmental issues, which are resolving (something for which we are grateful everyday).  There was much joy and happiness, of course, in those years, but joy and happiness don’t make for interesting writing.  And besides, as a neurotic, urban-dwelling Jew, it is my cultural duty to emphasize the gut-wrenching, the embarrassing, the bizarre and the ooky.

When our son was six years old, POB and I were able to clear some personal time in the family schedule.  I chose to return to the gym.

What a difference six years makes. My first day, I was in the locker room and to my horror I discovered that I packed form-fitting running tights that go down just below my knees and a geeky t-shirt that stopped at my waist.  Two things to note: I couldn’t remember when last I shaved my legs, and if this outfit looked good on me, I wouldn’t need to go to the gym.

Now, our son is 9 years old.  He is 70 pounds and still jumps in my arms when I come home, so I need strong leg, stomach and arm muscles so as not to end up in traction. Now, I do sit ups and pull-ups.

I hate pull-ups but I do three sets of three (sometimes four).  And all the gym boys think it’s really cute that a gray-haired, middle-aged lady can do unassisted pull-ups.  No, joke — I get compliments, fist pumps and high-fives from male trainers and regular gym rats.  And they give me technique pointers.  And I know that some of the women are watching me. They are not checking me out; they are wondering how they could try a pull-up when no one is looking.  At long last, the “buff and beautiful” (even the trainers) notice me and talk to me.  It took some gray hair and a few pull-ups to be the belle of the gym.  Of course, now I don’t need that kind of attention.  At 47, I have lost some elasticity and agility, but age has given me determination and self-confidence, and, yes, helped me negotiate a comfortable detente with my body.

And now I am visible at the gym? The gym gods must be crazy indeed.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my life, my family and my wholeness.   It does get better.

~ note from Blogger:  Special thanks to the Soeurs for editing and remembering and loving me, in all my guises.

What would you do?

POB (partner of blogger) came to our relationship with a housekeeper.  Before POB would move in with me, I had to fire Marta, my existing housekeeper.

But, Marta was cleaning the apartment even before I lived there.

New Yorkers will understand this:  I took over my friend’s lease and her spot in Marta’s cleaning schedule.  Although I met her once, I wouldn’t know Marta if I fell over her.  Every Friday, I used to wake up super-early and take the stairs and the back door out of the apartment building.   I just didn’t want to fail to recognize her as we passed in the lobby or by the elevators and then realize that she was turning the key to my apartment.  Yes, I would rather climb over garbage than risking not recognizing the woman who cleaned my underwear and dyed all my whites blue (ooops).

Since I never saw her (by design) and her English wasn’t so great, I had to fire her by leaving a note, saying I was moving out of state and offering to give her a reference even though she ruined my clothes and I didn’t know her last name.  I left a large severance.  She wrote a note back thanking me and sending me blessings in my new home and life.  Ok, not one of my finer moments.

Enough back story.

POB’s housekeeper, Lucy, was wonderful.  She took such good care of us.  And, we in turn took good care of her.  This summer, she and her husband moved back to Poland.  She recommended someone to take her place and we offered the person the job because Lucy trusted her.  If Lucy trusted her that was good enough for us.

Well, she is trustworthy.  But we are not loving the situation.  We try not to do the mental comparisons, “Lucy did it this way. . . .”  Still, it isn’t really working out.  And, yet, in these tough economic times, we are not going to look for someone else just because we don’t feel some sort of kismet with our new housekeeper-who-is-not-Lucy.  Besides, Lucy would hear about it (through the Polish community) and then she would be mortified that she recommended someone who didn’t work out.  So, it is really out of the question.

Add that this woman also cleans POB’s father’s house.  Think, “No exit.”

“So, what do we do?”  POB asks me tonight.

“Move,” I say.


“Yeah, move to California.  People move for a lot less than to avoid confrontation with a housekeeper.”

Really?  Really?  You are going to stick with that plan?”

No, of course not.  Because we aren’t firing our new housekeeper. Ever.  She inherited this position from someone we respect.  And I am not going to “Marta” her.

It is what it is: the home edition of The New Normal.


A Winter White Wedding . . . in October

Our G-d-daughters had their wedding this weekend.  At a retreat in the Catskills. POB (partner of blogger) and I were leading the ceremony.  SOS (our son, source of sanity) was the usher.

The weekend was fabulous.   The brides were beautiful.  It was such a happy occasion.

Ok, enough of that.  Now, my take on some key events in the weekend:

The rehearsal was called for 4 pm on Friday, so we set out on Friday morning.  The place was about 3 hours north of New York City.  Not quite above the tree line, but north of most measures of civilization.  It is in area hard hit by the economy and by the summer’s hurricane.

And no cell coverage.  Imagine being without access for 48 hours.  Nearly irreconcilable co-existence of serenity and extreme agitation.

We were told that the turn-off to the dirt road that would take us to the inn/camp site, would have a “road closed” sign and we were just supposed to ignore it.  Pause.  WHAAAAAT?

“Oh, yeah, and it would be good if your car had all wheel drive.”  (This is a picture of the road AFTER we arrived and the work men had graded the road.)  The pot holes in some places could swallow up a Mini Cooper.

We drove along the road in our sissy four door sedan, while the work men were trying to guide us toward to more “packed” dirt.  How NICE FOR US.

And, it was so sad to see the damage sustained by this community from the hurricane (let alone what the nor-easter was about to bring this weekend).

A house had slid off its foundation, almost into the road, as a result of the August hurricane.  It was a tragic sight.  But, at least, the owners found some morbid humor in it all (the sign reads, “For Sale. Flexible Price”).

We arrived at the Inn and extended grounds.  Note to brides:  When Jews say we don’t camp, we mean it:  Still, because we love you, we camped (ok, it was a cabin with a working kitchen):


Good thing, it was so picturesque.

The inn doesn’t really serve food on the fly, so when we were hungry for lunch, the concierge directed us to the Norman Bates (as in “Psycho”) deli, all the way back down the dirt road.

There was very little food there and there was a for sale sign on the building.  We decided that we would rather find a diner than eat anything in this place, so we asked the slightly crazed looking woman who was chopping meat behind the counter in the dark about a restaurant.  “We don’t have much in the way of food around here.  But if you go up the road a ways, there’ll be something.”  Well, all right-y then.

At 4 pm, the wedding party and the officiants (us) proceeded to the lower fields.  When I asked for directions, someone pointed in a direction and said, “down yonder, a ways.”  (It may have been one of the brides.)  It was beautiful place and there was a babbling brook.  If it were, say, 20 degrees warmer, it would have been chilly and lovely.  At that moment, however, it was bone-chilling cold.

The brides also had us practice in a tent in case there was snow.

No decision on the venue until the morning.  We had a barbeque rehearsal dinner (in a slightly heated tent, no fire) and a campfire (outdoors, with fire).

At the barbeque, the bartender had the gauged-out ears (the rings that make a hole you can drive a truck through and that make middle-age women a little sick) and was heavily tattooed.  I saw the FEAR spelled out on the four fingers of one hand.  I had to ask, “what does the other hand say?”  It said HOPE, which I thought was a good sign.  As it turned out, this guy was the sweetest, most helpful guy the whole weekend.  So, yes, I did learn something.

SOS wanted to get back to the cabin because he was afraid that the Yeti would do a home invasion.  One of the brides assured me that one of her aunts probably had the “technology” necessary to protect us if necessary.  I kept that information confidential (until now) because I thought that would freak out our sissy family.

I went over the ceremony I had planned and X-ed out anything superfluous.  When everyone is freezing, an extra few words can mean pneumonia.

The compromise was that we would have the ceremony in the tent but the back flap (the one behind the bridal parties and me) would be open so we could see nature’s beauty.  And it was indeed a winter wonderland.  It was magnificent.  The tent was not heated.  There was already 5 inches on the ground and it was 30 degrees in the tent.  One bride and her attendants were wearing strapless gowns.  I had six layers, and heavy storm boots and thermal socks.  I was still dancing around to stay warm.  People were shivering.   POB read her part and I truncated a fair amount of my prepared remarks.  It was the LEAST I could do.

When the brides were “recessing”, the attendants looked to me for the proper order of recessional.  My answer, “RUN!”

The wedding reception and dinner were fabulous.  First, it was warm.  The food looked really great, especially the local grass-fed beef.  That is, until one of the waitstaff said, “I raised that cow myself”.  Showing immense restraint (because I have that way of picking at a scab), I did not ask the cow’s name.  It was hard eating some animal you kind of/sort of know in a post-mortem, creepy way.

So, there were some crazy moments, AND it was fabulous.  POB and I are still over the moon about the weekend.  The people who trekked to this remote place are a hardy bunch.  Everyone there wanted to be part of this event.  A little cold wasn’t going to scare them.  That love and joy carried through from Friday to Sunday and warmed an otherwise frigid weekend.

Love and family made us warm.  The weather be damned.


(G-d) Mother of the Brides

Our G-d-daughters are getting married next weekend.  I am officiating.

I am scared.  I am used to public speaking, even extemporaneous remarks that elicit the appropriate chuckles and kudos at the end.

This is different.  They are my G-d-daughters not because their parents asked that POB (partner of blogger) and I watch over them, but because they chose us and we chose them.  That they chose us is a Divine gift (apologies to the one of them who is Atheist).

There was a time, as with all children, when one of them depended on us as a financial cushion.  That is what keeps parents secure that children, in their quasi-emancipation, will keep coming to dinner.  The test of a relationship is when they don’t “need” you anymore and come over for dinner anyway.  And they came, and continue to come, for Friday night dinner every other week.  It is a tradition that POB, SOS (our son, source of sanity) and I treasure.

And they are a gift.  And they remind us that love makes a family — nothing more and nothing less.  And POB and I do love them so dearly.  And we wouldn’t think twice about giving up a kidney or two (but not necessarily two from the same person).

And we are so honored that we are a part of their wedding.  We get all teary-eyed when we think about it.

And I want to help make their special day wonderful.  And I am scared that I am too ego-centric and that I won’t meet their expectations.  And failing your children is like dying a slow death by 1000 butter knife cuts.

I have been thinking and dreaming about what I will say for months.  I know that if it goes right, no one will remember; they will focus on the girls.  And that will be a success.

Love means reining in your ego for so your children can shine.  I hope I live up to my love for them.




Al Chet

The “Al Chet” is a commual confessional said ten times during Yom Kippur.  (There is also the silent, personal confessional said ad nauseum, so it isn’t as easy as it sounds.)

For the Al Chet (guttural “ch”), each line starts with:  “For the sin we have committed before [G-d]” and then gets pretty detailed:

under duress or willingly; by hard-heartedness; inadvertently; with immorality; openly or secretly; with knowledge and with deceit; through speech: by deceiving a fellowman; by improper thoughts; by verbal [insincere] confession; by disrespect for parents and teachers; by using coercion; desecrating the Divine Name; with evil inclination; by false denial and lying; by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand; in business  dealings; by eating and drinking; with proud looks; with impudence; and on and on.

After every few, we Jews ask: V’al kulam Eloha s’lichot, s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, kaper lanu (For all of these things, G-d of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, let us atone.)

Generally, I really dig in deep when it comes to the sins of pride, speaking ill of someone, improper thoughts and eating and drinking.  Ok, impudence, too.  And, ok ok ok ok, taking G-d’s name in vain.  But as a general matter, I am comfortable that the other sins are not mine in particular although on Yom Kippur we stand as a community and “own” these sins as a group.

Still, while the confessional is detailed but it is easy not to connect with the words on the page.  So, at our synagogue, during Selichot (the prep holiday for the Ten Days of Sorry), our synagogue congregants write down sins for which they seek atonement.  [a side note:  just the “Ten Days of Sorry” comment is going to be a BIG issue for 5773 if I last so long.]

Some of the “al chets” were: littering, not recycling, abusing substances, infidelity and unprotected sex.  While this may be ground-breaking in an Orthodox shul or a church, in our synagogue serving the gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, queer-identified community, their families and their friends (the printing is getting soooo expensive) with a social justice mandate (as if being home to everyone and literally his or her Jewish mama isn’t social justice enough), these “al chets”, too, have become rather mundane over 20 years.

But there was one “al chet” that stuck with me:  for the sin that I have sinned against G-d by maligning Orthodox Jews.

Whoa!!!!  That stopped me in my tracks.  I used to greet Jews with a kippah (skull cap) or a sheidl (wig) as fellow travelers seeking a good, meaningful life.  I learned over the years that one doesn’t inherit religious or ethical principles.  So, a child with a yarmulke can be as good or as evil or as somewhere-in-between as the rest of us.  Yet, they wear a costume of piety.  I have learned first hand about how some kosher, Sabbath observing, “pious” Jews are not ethical, moral or righteous. 

I have been crushed, disillusioned and personally harmed by the nefarious, immoral and dishonest deeds of those parading as pious, even those who are called “rabbi”.  And not because they object to my sexual orientation (there is no prohibition against lesbians in Torah).

As a result, I do deal with Orthodox Jews with greater suspicion than I do others.  And that is wrong.  The good and right thing is to assess each person according to that person’s merits.

It all comes down to a derivative of the golden rule: Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

For the sin that I have sinned by maligning all orthodox Jews on account of a few pretenders AND wanting to rip off their Yamulkes or sheidls, Eloha s’lichot (G-d of forgiveness), pardon me, forgive me, let me atone.  But if the person deserves it, I want the Heavens to clap with thunder and the angels to blow those crazy little bugels, ok?
Wow, Yom Kippur is over by less than two hours and I am soooo cooked for next year. .  . . . . .