tu b’av, take 6

This week, Joshua and I celebrated the Jewish holiday of Tu b’Av, which is the Jewish answer to Valentine’s Day, although the only thing the two holidays have in common is love. Tu b’Av has very different roots. We love celebrating Tu b’Av instead of Valentine’s Day! Believe it or not, this was the sixth year we have celebrated together (or at all). We were amazed it had been so long! I have such lovely memories:

The first year was 2011, in Jerusalem. We started our relationship in May of the same year, and we were so excited to get to celebrate the Holiday of Love together, and it was a privilege to be in Israel, as well! Joshua had some business in Israel and planned to be gone for 6 weeks – after we had only been together for 6 weeks. It was very sad. Not only that, but he would be gone for our very first Tu b’Av. However, unbeknownst to him, I planned to surprise him and arrive in Israel four weeks into his trip, and spend the remaining two with him. I remember going shopping in a tiny little clothes shop near Ben Yehuda Street to buy a white dress (traditional for single women on Tu b’Av), as I had come unprepared. Joshua had also done some shopping, and showed up with a rose and a teddy bear (Tu b’Av is widely known and celebrated in Israel – there are teddy bears and roses for sale everywhere on the streets). We had a delicious dinner at the most expensive restaurant Joshua had ever paid for (I’m not a cheap date), and we were supremely happy.

The following year was the year we got married, but we weren’t married for Tu b’Av. All that year, we had been touring the world through our palates, tasting a different cuisine each month at various restaurants. That month, it was Mexican, and we went to a very tasty little place in downtown Matthews, Pure, which has since closed. I remember some kind of long and intense discussion afterward, but I do think we reached some semblance of agreement by the end of the evening. #compromise

In 2013, we got to celebrate as a married couple for the first time. We decided that we would continue the trend we had unwittingly started and pick a restaurant every year to which we had never been. That year, we chose The Wooden Vine, which is a beautiful space and has a very comprehensive wine list. I still have a picture of our empty cheese plate on my Instagram account – I remember ordering champagne and sitting at a high top. It felt very ritzy being uptown, as we didn’t go up there too often.

The following year, in February, Joshua got a new job at the Wells Fargo in uptown Charlotte, which meant he was uptown every day. We used this to our advantage by picking another uptown restaurant for our Tu b’Av – Vivace. It’s located in the Met and has adorable orange umbrellas for its outdoor seating. We did not sit outdoors, as it was August.😉 I remember being pregnant at the time, and we were so overjoyed. I remember delicious salmon and a very verbose waiter.

In 2015, last year, I was driving home from Bristol, VA, to meet up with Joshua at the restaurant of our choice, in a new white dress! We picked The Fig Tree, which is in an old, Victorian home just outside of uptown. The waitress led us up creaking wooden steps and seated us at a small table with a pristine table setting. White tablecloths, sparkling glasses. We had the room to ourselves for most of the evening. The meal was astoundingly good. We still talk about going back sometime for a very, very special occasion.

And then, finally, this year. We had a place all picked out, but I happened to see some info about a brand new restaurant opening in Charlotte this year, called 204 North, located at 204 North Tryon Street. It seemed hip, and the cocktail menu made us laugh, because the cocktails are all named after areas of greater Charlotte. Our meal – and our entire experience – was perfect! From the parmesan pomme frites to the pimiento cheese ravioli to the sorghum sticky bun with rye whiskey ice cream (that was all Joshua’s meal), there wasn’t a wrong note. On top of that, we scored an awesome waitress. We will definitely be going back. In fact, Joshua has already lamented the fact that the restaurant is far too easy to get to from his office, and he might be “running late” a few nights a week…😉

It shocked me to realize I had been celebrating the holiday of love for six years, when I haven’t even been married for four, but time flies! I love our tradition of new restaurants every year. I love that I still have my teddy bear from the first year. I love that Joshua and I pick out Valentine’s Day cards for each other in February, and save them for Tu b’Av, because they aren’t sold in August. I’m hoping we continue to make new traditions and new memories, while keeping the old. #silverandgold

an old soul

I had such great ambitions about writing two posts a month or more in this new year…which isn’t so new anymore…

Hum. Oh well.

The year has been great so far! Joshua and I have big travel plans coming up, which include Chicago, New York, and Israel – we are spoiling ourselves this year, and loving every minute of it.🙂

So some people tell my sister, Mary, that she has an old soul. I don’t believe I’ve ever been told this, but I kind of get it, you know? Wisdom beyond your years, possibly; or a depth or seriousness to you that belies your age. Whatever people mean when they say it, there’s nothing that makes your soul feel older than finding out a friend has cancer.

It’s almost bound to happen if you work at a senior center. (Which I do – volunteer, that is.)

This past Tuesday, when I went in for my shift, they told me that my friend, Sheila, who taught me everything I know and used to work with me every Tuesday afternoon, but whom I haven’t seen in two months, has been diagnosed with blood clots and cancer and will not be coming back.

In fact, she’s been given 2-4 months, which, it turns out, translates to 1-2 months in ordinary time. She’ll also be spending the rest of her life in hospice care, in the hospital.

Since I started volunteering there a year and a half ago, only one person I knew had died. I didn’t know her very well – knew her name and face, but hadn’t had a real conversation with her. It was still stunning to find out that she had passed, and that I wouldn’t ever see her again. But this news about Sheila…it hit a lot closer to home.

I actually don’t know if Sheila would describe us as friends. What do you call people who work together every week, share stories and chat about their days, but don’t see one another or connect outside of the “office”? Maybe just acquaintances. But still – I know Sheila better than I know anyone else at the senior center. I like to think we were pretty close.

We are still praying for her health, but it certainly does feel like the end is approaching steadily. I can’t remember ever feeling that way; watching the end creep closer…I know of cases where it happened like that, but this is the first time I’m old enough to experience it myself. It’s kind of awful, isn’t it?

disappointment

In the past week, my family suffered a great disappointment. There is no other way to say it; I think that’s the emotion we’re feeling. Disappointment. Sadness. Confusion. Maybe a little anger or bitterness.

I shouldn’t give you the details – it’s not my story to tell. But the saddest part is that it should have been so happy. Like a pregnancy, there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. When done right, there is happiness and congratulations. When wrong, there’s shame and disgrace. Disappointment.

I, myself, have jumped off some cliffs before. Not this cliff, but similar ones. And, of course, I look back now and see how stupid I was. How arrogant, to think I knew best. How sinful, to disobey. So perhaps, in this case also, one day, there will be that same looking back, that same, “What was I thinking?” That same disappointment in one’s self.

Like that baby out of wedlock, there is some confusion over how to handle it. How to communicate love for a person while totally condemning their actions. How to “hate the sin and love the sinner”. How to adjust to the new status quo, and how things will never, ever be the same again. How to try to rebuild the trust. Some people handle it one way, others another, and then some people aren’t satisfied with how others are handling it, which only adds to the disappointment.

It’s really a good lesson in the ripple effect. One seemingly small action, one little decision, and relationships end, promises are broken, trust is destroyed, friendships are shattered. We cannot fathom the reach of our actions. We cannot imagine the hurt we can cause by blindly following our own hearts. We sometimes cannot understand the disappointment we see when we act selfishly.

Remember that no action stands alone. Everything we do has consequences, but also touches the lives of others. We can hurt and we can heal, in our words, and in what we do. We can heal, but we cannot undo the wound. We cannot undo the disappointment.

Now there’s a sobering thought for the new year.

*NB: while pregnancy was an excellent example in my post, none of my family members are currently pregnant out of wedlock. However, Morgan and Christine are both due in June!🙂

tying a knot

Almost a week ago now, my brother got married. I guess all of us always knew it would happen one day…but already!? I think I still see him as a little boy with those big blue eyes and a blond combover (even though he’s taller than me and hasn’t had that hairstyle for ages).

He married Laura (I did a post on meeting her – check it out), and we do still love Laura.🙂 They picked out an apartment in the same complex Joshua and I started in. They got married at the same venue. It was a different experience, being the sister of the groom instead of the sister of the bride. I think I felt a little nervous about stepping on toes; I wanted to be helpful but not pushy, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was trying to take over. I’m not sure if I was successful in that, but I hope so!

The wedding was beautiful! My brother walked to the chuppah to the tune of a niggun he had picked out – kind of somber and solemn, but he said he should walk to the chuppah in a serious mood and leave it overjoyed. THAT happened. Laura chose an instrumental Linkin Park song (that’s a rock song), and I have to say I kind of loved that. I thought the song was cool and hip, but more importantly, I’m glad she didn’t feel pressured to choose a song that wasn’t ‘her’. When I got married, I did feel that the day wasn’t about me – it was about pleasing a bunch of other people. And it’s a bit of soapbox for me now, that concept. I think that the two people getting married should do exactly what they want to do, and that other people’s opinions should be totally moot. The wedding should express the groom and bride, not the extraneous people attached to them.

Ok, ok. Stepping down now…

Anyway, it is my belief that a man’s true colors come out after marriage. Especially for someone living at home before marriage, you don’t really get to see who he really is until he’s in his own home, taking care of a household, living with his wife. I moved out years ago, but even then, it seemed to me that Peter was wanting to flap his wings a little more than he probably could in my father’s house.😉 I’m really looking forward to seeing who he becomes with Laura.

For an adorable picture Mary took during their engagement shoot, click this link.

To see some shots from the wedding, the Instagram hashtag was #WeddingOfLights (because they got married on the second night of Chanukah!). I can’t wait to see the pictures from the professional photographer, if these look this good!!

Congratulations, Peter & Laura – I truly do think you are perfect for each other, and Laura, I’m so, so happy you’re my sister.🙂

oh my darling

I was recently telling my mom something, and I referenced “the Clementine Man.” She suggested I tell you about the Clementine Man and how he came to be called that.

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Well, not really. Actually it was the neighborhood where I grew up – the neighborhood in which my parents still live. We moved into that house when I was 2 years old, so it has seen a lot of memories and much history has been made.

As young children, we were all kind of afraid of dogs. Some more than others. Some of us are still a little apprehensive.

Anyway, so there was this dog who lived down the street from us. I don’t know what kind, but he was relatively big and tan – not a Golden Retriever (not that hairy)…possibly a mixed breed. Because we lived in a cul-de-sac, whenever we wanted to take a walk or ride our bikes, we had to pass this dog. And he was almost *always* out in front of his house – no leash, no fence, nothing! He would usually bark as we passed, and sometimes he would chase us. (!) You have no idea how scared we were of being chased by a dog.

So one day, one of us had the bright idea to sing something soothing to the dog as we passed by, hoping that this would deter him from making any sudden loud noises or galloping after us. For whatever reason (I’m sure there was a sensible one at the time), we chose “Oh My Darling, Clementine“. I don’t know how we came to learn that extraordinarily depressing song in the first place, but it does have a particularly pleasing and singable melody, and we knew pretty much every word by heart.🙂

Believe it or not, this scheme actually worked.

The dog would perk its ears up and listen as we walked or rode by, and he wouldn’t bark, and he wouldn’t run. It was amazing! So, obviously, we continued to sing every single time we passed him. Since we didn’t know his name to begin with, he became known as Clementine.

(We later found out his name was Tony. I like Clementine better. He kind of looked like a Clementine.)

Naturally, his owner, who was a strong-silent-type man built like a wrestler and who we never knew or spoke to, was the Clementine Man. Or, sometimes, Mr. Clementine.

So ends the saga of Clementine. I will add that the Clementine Man still lives in the same house in my parents’ neighborhood, but it appears that Clementine himself has passed on. His presence has now been replaced with one of the ugliest dogs I’ve ever seen, who looks like a pug mixed with bat. We haven’t named him. Her? It.

some pickled green beans to start

Two years! I’ve been married two years now! I can’t believe it’s been this long already (relatively speaking).

When we got married, Joshua and I talked about honeymooning in Boston, because we didn’t think it would be possible to go to Europe, like we had dreamed. Thanks to my so-generous in-laws, Paris came true, and we put Boston on the shelf. This year’s anniversary trip really felt like a second honeymoon, as we spent six days together in the gorgeous city of Boston. This was the longest trip we’ve taken since our honeymoon – it was such. a. treat.

You know I travel for the food, so a quick paragraph on the amazing things we ate. We started off – our very first meal in Boston – at the Omni Parker Hotel restaurant, which features the best Boston Cream Pie in Boston. Word to the wise: it really is. I’m not a huge fan of hotel restaurants, and I wouldn’t say the rest of their menu is anything to write home to mom about, but that cream pie…wow. We ate pastries all over town and had some incredible desserts at Finale Desserterie. Two things that really took the cake were Joshua’s fish’n’chips at Neptune Oyster (a special only on Wednesdays – now you know) and our enormous order of Guinness onion rings at The Friendly Toast. My one disappointment was Alden & Harlow, a cool place in Cambridge that boasts a specialty burger every evening, but they were sold out by the time we arrived. Their small plates were really cool, though, and we enjoyed them immensely. A hint as to what kind of place we’re talking about? The kind where you’re sitting at your table waiting for your order and the waitress comes over and says, “Here are some pickled green beans to start.” Pickled. Green Beans.

And one more thing: I loved Drink, a hip bar where the bartenders ask you what you like and questions like what’s your favorite color and then pick a classic cocktail that they know you’ll love. Quite excellent – and very exclusive. We had to wait in line at the door to even get in, and that was at 10:30pm on a THURSDAY! Craziness.

So for me, we ate (and ate and ate). For Joshua, we went on a tour of the Old North Church, we went to Harvard Yard, and we went to the Institute of Contemporary Art. And for the both of us, we went row boating (on Jamaica Pond) and we went biking (up the Esplanade along Charles River). I highly, highly recommend both the boats and the bikes. We happened to have perfect weather (a blessing after the tempestuous wind and rain of the first two to three days), and the fall colors were truly gorgeous.

One of the most beautiful days was Saturday, which we spent relaxing at our hotel, picnicking at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, walking around Boston Harbor, coming home through Boston Common. The skies were that perfect blue, and the view was incredible. Joshua and I like to plan our trips so that we have some downtime – it’s not just go-go-go the whole time, because that wears us out and we don’t have enough energy or desire to do everything by the end of the trip. I really liked our Wednesday to Monday schedule this year. We had three days of non-stop activity, including late nights and lots of walking, and then we got to relax and do mostly nothing on Shabbat, which came at the perfect recovery moment. Then we were ready to get going again for Sunday and Monday. We also chose to come home on Monday afternoon, arriving early Monday evening, instead of stretching out our time in Boston and coming home on the 7:00 or 8:00 evening flight, and arriving late. This allowed us to get to bed at a pretty decent hour Monday night, to get back to the grind Tuesday morning. Scheduling and planning are so important to a great trip.

And that’s it! We did have the opportunity to go to the beautiful Mayyim Hayyim mikveh located near Boston proper, but it would take another post to tell you about it. Suffice it to say that the experience was meaningful and memorable and I want to go back.

I want to close this post with a quick recap of all that this second year of marriage has held for us. So much. So much. We were honored to be chosen as the kvater and kvaterin at the very first brit milah (circumcision ceremony) in our community. It meant so much to us. My second book, Footprints & Falafel, hit iTunes and Amazon – what a milestone (and if you haven’t bought it yet…what are you waiting for?)! Joshua got a BRAND NEW JOB working at Wells Fargo, and we could not be more grateful!! My little, tiny, baby brother turned 21, courted a girl, got engaged, and is GETTING MARRIED this December – whoa. Probably the most important deal in our life this past year was getting pregnant and then losing that precious life, but as I said in a previous post, those were some of the happiest weeks of our lives.

And then we went to Boston. So we are looking forward to this year being a year of growth, of unbounded happiness, and of greater love. It just keeps getting better.🙂

P.S. – for more pictures (but really, not many more) of our Boston trip, check out #2notomorrow on Instagram.

oktoberfest

If you listen to our podcast, you know that Joshua & I hosted a Sukkot party this year themed around Oktoberfest. It was my mom’s idea, but she couldn’t do it at her own home, so we did it. It was a smashing success, if I do say so myself.🙂

There was plentiful beer (we even got a keg!), kosher beef bratwurst, pretzel bites, and potato pancakes (or waffles, as the case may be). I asked my grandfather about the menu, because he is the Oktoberfest King. He knows what should be done, and what’s traditional, and what should be eaten.

In fact, because of him, we danced the Chicken Dance. Would you believe that the Chicken Dance is traditional for Oktoberfest!? I had no idea! Next time, we’re putting it on repeat and doing it for 10 minutes straight.

Ours was not the only Sukkot party, although it was the only Oktoberfest (good thing, too – can you imagine if every Sukkot party was Oktoberfest?!). We had a Sunday brunch (“Brews in Booths”), a “Pizza in the Hut” birthday bash (happy birthday to my niece, Zoe!!), a Mediterranean organic garlic tasting, and a sukkah party themed entirely around all that is “mini.” I was so excited to see people really run with their themes and idea. It’s so much more fun this way!

I would encourage you to listen to Upsides episode 64, which includes many more details about these Sukkot parties. You could plan your own for next year!