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?


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.


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!

on grieving

There are probably a billion posts on other blogs out there about how to handle people in mourning and grief and stuff like that, but here’s one more. My take.

Before we begin, an aside: for someone like me, who prides herself on her independence and ability to keep this house up and running, it was so hard to be out of commission and watch other people clean my house and rearrange things and vacuum and do dishes. I inherited this guilt from my mother, who does everything always and never stops and can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before she’s taking care of another task (usually the kind of task that lesser mortals would procrastinate).

For those of you who read my blog and also helped me during that week of recovery: thank you. Thank you so much. I really, honestly could not have done without you. Joshua came home an hour early from work every night that week to put dinner on the table and setup for the couple of social events we had scheduled weeks beforehand. He was a great help.

So anyway, this post is really more about grieving and things I’ve learned about how to deal with people in mourning. You might be surprised how many people put their feet squarely into their mouths when they try to comfort. For the record, the safest thing to say (and sometimes the only thing to say) is, “I’m so sorry,” and “I don’t know what to say.” Here are my thoughts on some things people tend to say without thinking (and if you said this to me, no hard feelings – I understand that you weren’t thinking clearly at that point, and I am using capital letters and exclamation points merely to make a point, not because I am deeply offended) and also things that are good or fine:

  • “You will have more children.” Um. ARE YOU MISSING THE POINT????? Would you ever even THINK about saying that to someone who DOES have children and lost a pregnancy?! Who cares [right now] about having more? I wanted THIS ONE. THIS was the one I wanted. Another one will be DIFFERENT. I wanted THIS ONE.
  • “This happened to me – I know exactly how you feel.” Well, I’m kind of ok with this one, *only* in this particular case (other women may differ on this point, so it might be best to avoid it altogether). If I had lost a parent or sibling or close friend, please don’t say this. But an unborn child, especially if you lost one in the first trimester, ok. It does feel similar for all women. It would be most true if you also struggled to conceive and also had no children when you had your miscarriage, but I’m ok with you empathizing.
  • “Oh, there was probably something wrong with the baby to begin with, so it’s best that it didn’t make it.” Interesting. So are children with genetic defects lesser humans? Would it be best if all the people with faulty genes just “didn’t make it”? I don’t think I agree with that. And, if you’re talking to people who have been wanting children for a while, DON’T SAY IT. Note: obviously, once again, I should make it clear that I KNOW people don’t mean this when they speak these words. But just be advised that this is what might be going through my mind. And we don’t think clearly when we’re grieving. This phrase just isn’t comforting, that’s all.
  • Any type of personal story is fine. If you’re trying to “steal the limelight”, so to speak, and drag all the attention onto yourself because YOU lost YOURS at six months, and this was “only” 10.5 weeks…not cool. This is not about you – this is about me. But if you’re telling me your story to communicate to me that you understand, in some way, what I’m going through, that’s fine. I’m fine with that.
  • “Have you tried [insert fad / legendary remedy / drug] [to get pregnant]?” Advice on getting pregnant? Really? Right now? Maybe you should reconsider your timing.
  • “Do you think maybe you overdid it? Do you think maybe you didn’t take enough vitamin B? Do you think maybe you shouldn’t have had that glass of wine last Shabbat? Do you think maybe you didn’t give G-d the glory?” Stop. Just stop. This miscarriage was NOT my fault. And you trying to blame it on me is definitely not helping.
  • “Drink as much [alcohol] as you want this week!” YES. Thank you! As Proverbs 31 indicates, strong drink is for those who are perishing, and wine for those whose life is bitter. And trust me: life is very bitter when you deal with the loss of your pregnancy.
  • “Delight yourself in the L-rd, and He will give you the desires of your heart!” There is a time and place for this verse. It’s when you are greeting the proud parents of a healthy newborn. When someone has just lost their child, this verse is a double-whammy. First, don’t TALK to me about DELIGHT. I am GRIEVING. As Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing. It’s not wrong to grieve. It’s not wrong to cry when life is sad. I can still believe that G-d knows best when I’m crying. I can still trust G-d when my heart is breaking. LET ME GRIEVE. Secondly, you’re indicating that my lack of children is my fault. Must be because I haven’t delighted myself in the L-rd enough (WHATEVER THAT MEANS). I didn’t realize that was the ONE KEY TO LIFE! Delighting myself in the L-rd! THAT’S what I missed. If only I could do that, I could have as many children as I wanted, because G-d would give me the desires of my heart! Woohoo! Yeah…I don’t think that’s how it works. Save this one for another time, please.
  • Nothing. Saying nothing is ok in two circumstances: first, if you’re not very close to me anyway, and you heard about this third-party, and you don’t see me until a week or two or three after the fact…that’s ok (might be a nice touch to ask me how I’m doing when you next see me, though). Second, if you come to my home and sit beside me and hold my hand and just say nothing – you’re there with me – you care for me, but you don’t have the words. Fine. Saying nothing is NOT ok if you’re family or a close friend. If either of those is the case, you BETTER communicate to me in some way that you care about my life. Do not make the mistake of waiting for the perfect moment or waiting until the timing is convenient for you. I am HURTING and I NEED YOU to tell me you love me and you care about me and my baby.

So. Let me reiterate that I was not offended at all by anything anyone said (and not all of the above was said to us this time). I understand that people don’t know what to say, and they’re desperately trying to find the words to communicate their feelings about this event in your life. I get it. But for next time, let’s just keep it safe. Practice it: “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry.” That’s really good. :-)

Two last things: I cannot believe how many cards we received. I didn’t count them or anything, but they filled our kitchen table. And some of these notes were covered in handwriting, expressing sorrow, telling personal stories, truly grieving for us. I was so touched. I didn’t know people would care that much. Even the text messages and emails – I just read through some of them again as I typed this, and they make me cry. People truly grieved with us, and again – I didn’t know they would care so much. Wow.

Also, one woman took the time to write us a note AND write a note to my parents. She understood that they, too, experienced loss in this situation. That it’s hard, especially as a mother, to watch your child go through a lot of pain and sadness. I thought that was such a sweet touch. It was kind of like the extra mile. Something to ponder.

So let’s be good grievers, shall we? May we not have much opportunity to practice this, but when the time comes, let’s be good at it.