to whom it may concern – to those it did concern

A letter of thanks to the many, many people out there who took a moment, however many times, to breathe a prayer for me and my husband, to cry out to G-d on our behalf, to whisper a request for us to have a child.

I am so grateful.

For years, my husband and I have prayed for a child. And I look back now over those years and see that gradually, the group of petitioners before our King was growing to a multitude. And then, one day, G-d said yes. And we found out we were going to have a baby.

But it didn’t stop there.

I know that all of you, Prayer Warriors in the truest sense of the word, didn’t stop praying for that little life within me. And I want you to know that I felt, throughout the past nine plus months, that your prayers were sustaining this baby boy, keeping him alive, and bringing him to this season of time. Your prayers were building him, piece by piece, cell by cell, into the perfect, tiny human that he is today.

I look at my son and know that he is totally and completely mine (and also totally and completely Joshua’s); and yet, in a cosmic, mystical way, I feel that he also belongs to all of you. I may have carried him physically, but you carried the spiritual burden with me.

Although we will tell our miracle baby how miraculous he was, when he gets a little older, I doubt that he will ever fully grasp how much happiness he brought into the world just by being born. How much light and joy he spreads just by being here.

But I will. And I will never, never forget how much it means to me that people cared enough to pray for us for days, weeks, months, years.

Thank you.

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changing our tune

Well, I’m pretty sure everyone who reads my blog already knows this, but in case you didn’t – I’m pregnant!

And today is Mother’s Day. It’s the first Mother’s Day since I got married that I really felt like celebrating. When the first one rolled around, we had started trying to have a baby and it had been a few months and nothing had happened, and I didn’t feel like anything was necessarily wrong, but I was starting to wonder why it wasn’t just *happening* for me like it does for some people.

Anyway, here I am just starting my third trimester, and today had me stopping and thinking about everything this means to me.

We just went on our babymoon – we chose Newport, RI (gorgeous!) – and while we were there, relaxing by the beautiful coast and enjoying each other’s company, I remembered that when we booked it, months ago, we actually waited as long as possible to do so, because we felt so uncertain about being able to keep the baby full term. It feels so surreal to finally be pregnant and, at this point, to be able to sense the life within at almost every moment of every day. It is magical.

I know that people might say I haven’t gotten to the truly miserable “hard part” yet (and that may be true – we’ll see), but I love being pregnant. I have loved almost everything about it. Even now, when I look down at my ever-so-slightly swollen feet and it’s hard to keep cool, I still think, “Yes, but I’m pregnant!” I’ve waited so long for this (long being a relative term) – who cares if it’s uncomfortable sometimes?

Something I wish people would say in books and stuff: when you first get pregnant, before you get the adorable bump, you just feel fat. Everything is thickening. Clothes don’t fit, or don’t fit right, but you really just look like you’re gaining weight in kind of unattractive places (which you are), and you feel like a blob. No one tells these things. But finally! Finally. The bump starts to come in and everything is so much cuter. Maternity clothes stop looking like sacks and get filled out properly. It is so much fun!

Really, the whole weight gain thing has been a tricky mind game for me. It has been so hard to not feel and see the comparisons between my sisters and myself (I think this is common for sisters in general). To wonder why our pregnancies don’t look more similar than they do – don’t we come from the same exact gene pool?! To try not to feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m carrying bigger, wider, or just differently from them.

To compound this issue, it seems that everyone in the world finds it appropriate to comment on your body size when you’re pregnant. Why is this? In what other circumstance is it ok to talk to someone, especially a stranger, on the smallness or largeness of their body?! I can’t think of any! But my goodness, do people ever stick their feet squarely into their mouths on this one – all the time. I had a cashier who, after learning that yes, this is my first baby and no, I’m not carrying twins, told me a sweet little story about a previous customer who came in carrying twins, due in two weeks, who was just about my size (I was 20 weeks). How lovely. What am I supposed to do with that information? Pregnancy is not a disease – why do people’s brains turn off when they talk to pregnant people? As my sister, who is now pregnant with her fourth, likes to say, there is only one right thing to say to a pregnant woman regarding how she looks: YOU LOOK GREAT. Full stop. Period.

These things – you just have to let them roll. Water off a duck’s back.

It may sound arrogant, but I am super confident about parenthood. I think I’ll be a great mom, but that’s not so much about me, but about the fact that I have had years to watch and learn from great moms around me (plus, of course, I have had the example of my stellar mom for years and years and years now). Joshua and I have house- and baby-sat for two of my siblings while they went on vacations, getting a chance to play dad and mom to their kids while they were away. It’s not the same, but it was good practice! Plus, we’re reading all these great child raising and parenting books while we wait for this little guy to finish cooking. I feel very prepared.

When we got back from our babymoon this past week, it was bittersweet, because we know it’s the last real trip we’ll be taking for the foreseeable future. We have so enjoyed being world travelers for over four years now; it’s been our thing. But now we’re ready to put away the suitcases and flip the switch and become full-time stay-at-home parents (so to speak). What a blessing to have had so many years to travel! We both agree that because of that, we don’t feel the compulsion to travel as soon as possible again. I really don’t think I’m going to miss it. The years can go by. We’ve turned a page, and we are finally, finally at the next chapter in our lives. We are going to be parents.

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.