Monday, January 26, 2009

Shiksa in the Temple!

So - last week was THE Bat Mitzvah.

We arrived and got the word from my sister-in-law that we had a reading to do.

This. was. news. to. me.

Now I'm not shy about public speaking. Despite having avoided it for much of my earlier years, at some point something clicked in my brain, and now I couldn't care less. However, most of my speaking is in business environments where I know my topic, my environment, and my audience. A temple where people talk know...God and stuff, is NOT my comfort zone. But I love my niece and decided to go with the flow.

The flow, however, did not include rehearsal, a program, or any other guidelines except a little crib sheet of what we were to say (English responses or translations of Hebrew phrases) and that we should listen for a part of the service where a specific phrase was said.

Been to a Bat Mitzvah lately? There is a book. You start on page 121 or some such and it goes for 2 hours.


Are we in the first 30 minutes, I wondered? the second? the end? No one could seem to answer me. The result was hubby and I were two of the most avid listeners in the joint that day... waiting with bated breath for the phrase to arise. We thought we had a general idea about it, but they occasionally skipped sections, or something that looked like a reading became a chant with repeating verse, etc. We were a little lost.

Finally the phrase was spoken and we dutifully rose, as if on a well-rehearsed cue, and made our way to the altar (is it an altar in temple?) See this picture below? This picture was taken on Thursday BEFORE the event. I can assure you that the Rabbi was not in attendance or I would not be touching the Torah....not a Shiksa like me!

I had reviwed the reading in advance with hubby and split the sections so that I minimized my "God" stuff. I tried to stick with phrases about spirit, humanity, community, etc. I don't think they would have liked me to go off script and say something about organized religion being the death of humanity and morality in the world.

Luckily, despite my non-believer status, the roof did not crash down upon us.

Thinking back upon my 13-year old self, I cannot imagine a greater torture than having to learn to read another language and then to conduct a service for two hours in front of family, friends, and relative strangers (or strange relatives) in that language. Yet MK took it all in stride. In fact, she reveled in it. Her Hebrew was nearly flawless and she was praised by all in attendance as having performed one of the most flawless Bat Mitzvah celebrations ever (this to the groans and exclamations of many 30-40 year olds in the audience who felt they were being maligned and discounted in the family memory for their less stellar performances.)

The day stretched before us in an unending observation and celebration of this special day. The reception was a cacophony of noise and sounds heightened by the screaming of 13-year old girls, the awkwardness of 13-year old boys, and the unique opportunity to sit among strangers who somehow are related to you and were grouped at your table by some interesting formula of 10.

If you've ever had the desire to return to your junior high school for one more dance...go to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Most of the same rules apply, except you no longer know the music (who are the Jonas Brothers and why do ALL the girls scream when they are mentioned?) and you need a little alcohol to get you on the dance floor at all.

All in all, the event was a success, and even when less than 24 hours later the proud and tearful parents who had delivered such moving speeches about their wonderful daughter, her strength and independence, her sense of right and wrong, and her grace under pressure dissolved into the typical parental screams of "MK - I don't CARE what you THINK! You will DO AS I SAY!!!", we all still remained friends in the end.

And the dress you say? Well, I went with the blue velvet because the theme of the evening was "BROADWAY", the star of the evening was a knock-out in a strapless gown, and god knows you need a little drama with that.

And to tell you the truth - just look at that darlin' girl...I can put all my religious misgivings, my fashion ineptness, and my musical tastes out of my mind, just to spend a day with that glowing smile.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my Dad's birthday. He would have been 83. I miss him every day, but the 6 years since he passed have gone by in a blur, and the new normal has set in. I've been wondering lately what he would think of the world today and trying to fill in his side of the conversation.

Dad, what do you think about this economy?
Save your money.

Dad, isn't this just amazing, we have elected and sworn in the first black president of the United States.
Those boys have come a long way since I was a kid.

Dad, they just can't seem to find peace in the Middle East.
Wipe it off the face of the earth and forget about it.

Dad, I'm worried about keeping my job. No company can guarantee work anymore.
Work hard. Do your part. You can't do anything else...oh..except save your money.

Dad, what do you think of what's on tv these days?
Boob tube. Too much filth...too much blood and guts...I prefer a good Tom Clancy novel.

Dad, I just turned 42 and this is your 83rd has this happened?
Beats the hell out of me kiddo.

Dad, I love you and miss you. I'm sorry if work and life kept me away from you too much in the later years of your life.
I love and miss you too and we all need to live our own lives. I'm proud of you and that hubby of yours. You did ok.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fist-Bumps All Round

Everyone and their brother will be posting about the inauguration of our NEW president today. From the Chief Justice's faux pas in swearing him in, to the color of the new first lady's dress, and it will be extensively reported that President Obama was inspiring in his speech and how the greatest takeaway most of us could have was his encouragement to put away childish things (i.e., grow up) and take responsibility for our own actions. It will also be extensively reported that his daughters were adorable in J. Crew and gave him the thumbs up on his activities to date.

But what about poor Dubya? After eight excruciating years, he retires as the least popular president since the measurements began. I am glad that the cameras and microphones did not pick up the rampant boos which reporters claimed were a part of the crowds on the mall. It's classier to just tip our hats and say, "Goodbye, Mr. President" and be thankful his term of office is over and be hopeful we can recover from the mess we now inherit.

Here's hoping that we each find a way to take up our part to help our new president in the days ahead. Because while it is convenient to use the 43rd president as a scapegoat and blame him for most of our ills today, it is for sure that one man alone didn't take us here...and it's for sure that one man alone won't get us out.

Get ready America. The Obama's have come to town. It's time for ALL of us to serve.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In Flight

A small bird just flew in and landed on the seat across from me. INSIDE the airport. Might be better living arrangements than outside. We are in Newark after all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thinking of Dexter

In July we lost our pet of nearly 18 years, a little black kitty named Dexter (or C.K. Dexter Haven - from the Philadephia Story. I've been thinking of him a lot the last few weeks. I've stumbled on some pictures recently, and others that I know have recently lost pets and it brings the feeling back.

Hubby and I were always adamant that we not be called Dexter's Mom and Dad...I never really understood why people did that. But yet, he was a child of ours in many ways, totally dependent on us for his care and feeding, subject to our moods and whims, and a part of our emotional health.

They say that pets can lengthen your life, lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress, and provide you with comfort simply by allowing you to stroke their fur, walk them around the block, listen to them purr or snore. I believe it. After his death, our house felt so very very empty at first that it was almost unbearable. It actually no longer felt like a welcome place to be. It was uncomfortable and silent. You see, Dex was antisocial with everyone except us. With us, he couldn't get enough. He always wanted to be with us - he loved parking on my desk - often wrapping his body around my laptop, enjoying the heat from it and watching my fingers on the keys.

But time changes things, and you adjust to the new normal. I think over the past six months we have stopped seeing him in every shadow on the floor, stopped waiting for him to come around the corner, ceased feeling a phantom jumping on the bed when one of us moves a certain way. There are moments, however, when I just cannot believe that crazy animal is gone. When I walk in the door at night, I feel it. For nearly 18 years I would walk in and he would run to greet me, and my greeting to him would be, "Hello Monster." Because he was a monster in so many ways. A bit of a sociopath honestly. But he was our sociopath.

It's funny to realize that our little Dexter witnessed our early years of marriage, several apartments and homes, and all of the events of our 20's and our 30's, eventually seeing us both turn 40. Far from being just a bystander, they are witnesses and participants in our lives and help us mark the time on this earth. We see them grow older more rapidly than we do - almost as a precursor to our own aging, often facing illnesses that may bring more suffering than quality of life can bear. Would that someone would show us the humanity of helping us depart the world in dignity as we can help our pets when the cure is worse than the illness, or when the pain and suffering gets to be too much.

I miss Dexter. He was a good companion, and always a good source of anecdotes because of his crazy antics. I think we gave him a good home. I think he had a good life. I think he would understand and hopefully appreciate that we put him to sleep knowing his life had little joy and a lot of suffering. I wish we could have allowed him a death in his sleep at home, curled at the foot of our bed, warming his fur in a sunspot, but we didn't have control of that choice.

I've found myself checking out websites for shelters in our area...looking at cats that need a new home. I think we're almost ready to do this again. Maybe we'll even get two cats this time. One for each lap, one for each pair of feet, a duo that can keep one another company while we go about our human business.

This time, we'll have animals who will witness our 40's, 50's and maybe even as we turn 60. If they are like Dex, they will give us as much care as we give them - and will comfort us, quiet our stress, and make us laugh. They may even drive us a little crazy, destroy a few loved pieces of furniture or bedding, and frighten our guests. But they'll be OUR little monsters, just the same.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Color Correction

Another snowy Saturday, another two hours at the salon, a much better result. I got back in my regular chair (with owner) and she said, "This is way too dark and dull for you, right? Why didn't you come back right away?" Finally. Someone who gets me. No one else seemed to see the difference. Or maybe they were too polite to say, "damn, your hair looks awful."

Lesson in taking care of your loyal customers.At the end she took my photo to add to the webpage they are developing (Yes, I am that gorgeous...but the pictures may not be) and she didn't charge me for the color.

The result: Not only did I come home happy, I came home and populated three sites on the web with positive reviews of the salon.

Men may never understand that it is harder for a woman to change stylists/salons than it is to change gynecologists. A bad gyno appointment only lasts about 5 minutes, a bad hair style can last for months and the trauma for years.

Am I wrong?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

THE Bat Mitzvah

My niece is 13.

This is a big enough deal for any girl - you know the whole teenage entry and stuff. But MK? she's been a teenager for years...all about the fashion, the boys, the phone calls, the texting and god knows, she has the teenage drama thing down cold.

Don't get me wrong. I love the girl dearly, but holy cats can she put on a show.

So here she is in her ideal place - the middle of the spotlight, in the starring role of her own life. Her Bat Mitzvah. THE Bat Mitzvah. And apparently, this is bigger than super sweet sixteen and a wedding all wrapped into one (at least for now).

When I turned 13? I had a slumber party. A few girlfriends arrived at my house at 6PM. We played games, watched tv, giggled incessantly, ate junk food - all in our comfy and somewhat ratty pj's. We were asleep by midnight. There was, of course, a breakfast the next day ( as I recall it was Apple Jacks and toast) and then they were gone, by 10AM.

Considering my inexperience in understanding the scale of THE Bat Mitzvah, can you blame me for thinking we should write a really big check? Turns out, that is not expected, which is good, cuz you know, there's a recession and all, but what IS expected is participation - major participation.

We will fly out for a week in San Francisco, a week full of events. We will stay in a local hotel and rent our own car. I have been informed that we must present ourselves in full dress on Thursday afternoon for formal family photography session. I have further been informed that we are to participate in the Thursday night dinner, the Friday night dinner, and Friday night temple. Then we are to present ourselves again at the temple at 8AM Saturday for more family pictures and then the actual Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Saturday night is the BIG party (and probably more photography)...think wedding reception style event - which has a Broadway Theater theme (drama, right?). Sunday AM? is the grandparent hosted brunch.

So last night I struggled with the question all cool protestant-reared Aunts of young Jewish women must contend with: What the hell is a Bat Mitzvah, and more importantly, what the hell do I wear? AND do I have shoes to go with it?

Last week I spoke with the birthday girl herself and she was on her way to get her "gown" fitted. It seems this is one of several special outfits she will have for the various activities around this weekend. Apparently it is strapless, shimmery, and quite the fashion statement. MK then asked if I had purchased my dress yet? "No," I informed her, "I'm not buying a new dress."

MK: "Oh." (read the disappointment and disapproval dripping from that one syllable.)

Wenderina: "I have a dress already I think will be fine."

MK: "Oh," as she tries to be supportive, "well what does it look like?"

Wenderina: "It's just a basic black dress."

no response

Wenderina: "Sleeveless."

no response

Wenderina: "Scoop neck."

no response

Wenderina: "Knee length."

no response

Wenderina; "It's a classic little black dress."

no response

Wenderina: "I really like it and it was such a great deal. It's Calvin Klein."

MK: "Oh! Sounds great!"

...yeah, it's like that with MK.

So needless to say, when I saw Coldwater Creek had a super sale going on, I scrolled through the catalog to see if there was something that might better meet MK's expectations. I ordered a blue velvet "gown" with a pleated back vent and a little rhinestone pin, etc. etc. etc. Much more "special" than the Calvin Klein, despite the lesser label. It arrived yesterday and I found myself trying this new dress on, then the little black dress, then a gold dress I had worn ONCE to a friends wedding...parading them all in front of Hubby with various pashminas, jewelry choices, and shoes...

I don't know why I'm kidding myself...or Hubby, for that matter.
The answer is right in front of me.

Of course I will take them ALL.

And seek MK's approval of the right one. Because you see, MK at 13 has more fashion sense and girl genes and proper sense of drama than this 40+ year old will ever have.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy New Year

So...somewhere after 12/31/08, I got a little lost. Suddenly it's like halfway through January 2009. Ok. So it isn't halfway. It's only January 7th, but DAMN, that week went fast.

This week has been that typical first full week after the November/December holiday season. Suddenly everyone remembers they work for a living, they have plans that have to be finalized, travel that needs to be scheduled, and everything MUST BE DONE RIGHT NOW.

I've spent the last three days on the phone ALL DAMN DAY. And while I've got my bluetooth going with one conference call, I'm answering emails, filing documents, and scheduling the next conference call all at the same time. My work day today began at 7:30AM and will not end until approximately 9PM (ah the joys of Global business and multinational time zones). This is actually pretty typical work week activity, but in the past 6 weeks I've managed to forget that since everything is different from the week before Thanksgiving through New Years.

I can honestly say I've done more work in the past three days than in the past three weeks. And you know what the best part is? I feel like I have a good job. A secure job. A job that MUST be done. After the last two months of budget angst, economic stress, layoffs, and other not so good holiday news, it feels, well, normal.

I told this to one of the execs earlier today - that after a couple of months of dread for 2009, I suddenly feel excited about it, and he said (over)confidently, "It's going to be a GOOD year."

"I hope so." I replied.

Then he said, "Just remember Hope is NOT a strategy."

Um. ok.

Anyways, thank God for the new year.

And fingers crossed I'm not just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.