I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

I was honored this past weekend to be nominated for a Sunshine Award by my friend and colleague, Lisa Friedman. According to Lisa’s blog post on the topic, “a Sunshine Award is an opportunity to learn more about the nominated blogger (that’s me!) and provides an opportunity to highlight fellow bloggers who he/she feels make a significant contribution to the blogging community.”

Here are the rules (as listed on Lisa’s blog):

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

So, here goes…

Please make sure you check out Lisa’s blog (link above). She writes beautifully about inclusion in Jewish institutions, a topic about which she is quite passionate, as evidenced in her blog. I know that Lisa’s posts often give me much to consider in my own work, and can certainly extend beyond the Jewish world.

11 random facts about myself:
1. I have lived in three different states (and 5 homes) in the last 7 years.
2. I met and started dating my husband during my first semester of college.
3. My mother says I did not like chocolate for the first two years of my life. I have clearly overcome this challenge.
4. I find it humorous every year when I go in for my annual exam and fill out on the form that I have had 2 pregnancies and 3 children.
5. I have a long-standing desire to be a song leader but I don’t ever keep up with guitar for a long-enough stretch to improve my skills and make this happen. (And yes, I know I don’t NEED the guitar – but it helps.)
6. I totally relate to Glee because I was the quintessential choir/drama geek in high school. And yes, I did spontaneously burst into song in the hallways, though it wasn’t typically so well-choreographed.
7. I consider myself an “accidental Jewish educator” as I have an MSW and thought I would spend my life working in child welfare – but my current field has proven to be my real calling and passion.
8. My family of five recently moved into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment and discovered how much stuff we can love without. It’s been awesome so far.
9. I enjoy cooking AND baking. Though I try not to bake too often since I tend to sample my way through the process.
10. I made a decision about a year-and-a-half ago to live healthier and subsequently lost 20 pounds – which was not my goal but definitely a nice bonus!
11. My quote in my senior yearbook is from Kermit the Frog. If you know me, you know why this is entirely appropriate.

Answers to Lisa’s questions:
1. If you could cast yourself in any reality TV show, which would it be and why?
I’d have to go with The Voice. But not as a contestant – as a judge. So I could hang out in those chairs – they look awesome!

2. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
I have a nut allergy, so I have to claim neither here. Though if I did eat it, I suspect I’d be a smooth person.

3. Favorite place to vacation?

4. What animal most describes your personality?
Um… I’ll say a frog. Because I often like to sit back and take in a situation before I hop in and contribute, participate, etc. Also, frogs are awesome.

5. Favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint chocolate chip. Though if there is some type of raspberry-chocolate option, I will usually go for that.

6. Cookie or cake?
I love a cookie cake – best of both worlds!

7. Describe your ideal day.
A day of adventure in a big city with my family.

8. What is your favorite season?
Spring. I love the promise that comes with everything renewing itself, the weather getting warmer, and hopefully a lack of snow!

9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
I don’t know about “favorite,” but I guess what I find most surprising is that so many people actually care about what I have to say! So maybe that is also my favorite thing.

10. How do you relax?
My Shabbat menucha usually involves sitting with the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

11. What did you have for breakfast?
A Thanksgiving morning treat –
my mom’s homemade French Toast!

11 blogs I am nominating for a Sunshine Award:

1. A Thread That Has No End
2. Building Bridges – Deepening Faith
3. All Things Ira
4. Welcome to the Next Level
5. Josh Nelson Project
6. Greatest Escapist
7. Scientific Artistry
8. Expressing Myself
9. The Confessions of a REAL Mom
10. In One Ehrlich
11. 5th Judge

These are listed in alphabetical order by first name of the blogger, so as not to give any perceived implication of ranking. And in full disclosure, there are very few blogs that I follow REGULARLY. But these have, at various times, inspired and/or entertained me, whether about education (Jewish or otherwise), parenting, faith, and/or life in general. The last one listed is a recently revived blog from my friend and go-to expert on college a Capella (from long before Pitch Perfect!) who will be sharing his opinions on The Sing-Off when it returns in a few weeks – show him some love and follow along!

11 Questions to Nominated Bloggers:

1. What is one change you try to be in the world?
2. What is your favorite drink from Starbucks?
3. What is the best thing that has happened in your life during the past week?
4. If you had $100 and were required to spend it on yourself, what would you buy?
5. What was your favorite childhood movie?
6. Where is a place you would like to travel that you have not yet had an opportunity to visit?
7. How many tabs do you have open in your browser right now?
8. What is your favorite board game and why?
9. What is your favorite website?
10. What is something that makes you weird?
11. What size shoe do you wear?

Thanks for allowing me to spread the Sunshine on this cloudy Thanksgiving Day!

What Can We Do? Maybe One Thing…

I was waiting for the guitar lesson to be over, casually browsing through Twitter, when I came across The Blog Post No One Wanted to Read. Which was really The Blog Post No Parent Should Ever Have to Write.

I cried. And pulled myself together in time for my son to emerge from his music lesson.

And as I looked at my 7-year-old, I thought, “Would I do it differently if I knew his time was limited?”

This question has continually cycled in my head over the past 24+ hours. I can tell you that the answer is an unequivocal YES.

Those crumbs all over the floor following dinner? Really not a big deal – we’ll clean it up. A request for two “small” pieces from the Halloween bag when usually only one is allowed for dessert? Sure, go ahead. And even some of the typically button-pushing, excessive whining? Maybe you, my child, just need a break from that activity and a hug.

Amazing how suddenly, there was less need to keep up on Facebook and more need to focus completely on whatever Minecraft nonsense my boys felt compelled to share with me. How kisses and hugs and cuddles at bedtime and saying “I LOVE YOU” was everything. Everything.

My heart is shattered, as are so many others. We all wish desperately there was something we could do to make it all better. We accept in despair that we cannot.

So I have decided to do something that is in my control. To not take for granted that my children have unlimited time – maybe they don’t. To make sure to remember that each day is, in fact, a gift to be treasured. To honor my friends, and their superhero son, by making every moment count – because we just don’t ever know how many moments we have left.

It might not change the thing we all want to change. But I am pretty sure that it WILL make a difference. It will matter. And it is something we all can do.

#blogelul 29: Return

Some resolutions for 5774:

A return to a settled life, albeit in a different house, but no longer in a perpetual state of limbo.

A return to regular blogging outside of #blogelul.

A return to visit friends in Philadelphia, as it has been far too long since I have been back. This shall include a meal at Hymie’s, not only because the food is awesome, but because it was the last place I spent time with my friend Randi, who passed away on Sunday. I will return so that I can remember, and reconnect, and renew.

May we return to Elul in a year, knowing we did our best to fulfill our obligations, and looking to continually better ourselves each day, month, year. L’shanah Tovah.

#blogelul 28: Give

If you’ve been following along all month, you know that my family moved out of our home a few days ago. And if you’ve really been paying attention, you know that we are not yet in our new home. We have been staying with friends. And this is where I have learned the true meaning of “give.”

Our friends have opened their home to us, and have asked for nothing in return. They have three children of their own, two full time jobs, one au pair, and possibly a partridge in a pear tree, though I haven’t actually seen it yet. Since our own family composition is similar (though no au pair), I know how crazy our day-to-day existence can be. But these friends have taken it upon themselves to open their home to us, and have gone above and beyond to make sure we are comfortable and fed. This is the definition of giving, and we are infinitely thankful for these gifts – that of a roof over our heads and a place to sleep every night, but more so the unconditional friendship, which is so much greater than any tangible gift one could give. Having no actual relatives nearby, it’s comforting to know that your “family” is available to give when you really, really need it – and that you would not hesitate to give to them in return.

#blogelul 26/27: Hope/Intend

I had hoped to blog yesterday. It was my intention. But it did not happen.

We intended to leave our house in the same condition in which we found it, minus normal wear and tear. We hoped that would not be an all day project. It was. But it is now complete. We are out of the house, and comfortably settled in at our friends’ home for a few days until we can move into our new place.

However, I realized this turned out to be a fortuitous time to be too tired to write, as “hope” and “intend” fit together nicely. Our intentions are tied to our hopes. Our actions (intentions) are things we do so that our dreams and desires (hopes) might become reality.

I am hoping for a smooth resolution to the saga of our move. I intend to do everything I can to make that happen.

#blogelul 25: Begin

There are so many beginnings that have just occurred or are about to happen that I did not even know how to begin this blog post.

And now, at midnight, at the end of an exceedingly long moving day, and new day and a new (secular) month begins. I’m ready to see what each has in store.

#blogelul 24: End

This is it. This weekend is the end of our residency in our current home. Last night was the last dinner prepared in the kitchen, as most of our dishes and cookware are now packed away in boxes. This morning was the last time my kids grabbed their backpacks from the hooks in the laundry room and their lunches from the refrigerator. Also, hopefully, the last time the refrigerator water dispenser spilled all over as I tried to fill up a water bottle. Tonight will be the last time we sleep in these rooms. But I haven’t been particularly sad. Maybe I’ve just been too busy purging things and packing to dwell on it. And I think Semisonic was right: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

And so I choose not to be stuck in the end, but to move forward into a new beginning.

#blogelul 23: Love

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

The movies have it all wrong. Love is not in the grand gestures, the guy holding up the boom box playing a Peter Gabriel song outside the window of the girl, or any other awesome cinematic moment.

Love is the quiet moments, like when you are walking to school and your seven year old slips his hand in yours and keeps it there. That is love.

#blogelul 22: Dare

I dare you.

I dare you to think of the most difficult thing you are facing in your life right now.

And then I dare you to put it in perspective.

I watched on the news the other night as Ann Curry interviewed a seven-year-old Syrian boy, whose world had literally blown up around him, who had witnessed his friends and neighbors die only an arms’ length away while he was playing outside his home.

And then they moved on to his mother, who was entirely hidden beneath her burqa – except for her eyes. And that was all you really needed to see – this window into her soul, her heartbroken soul that spilled out through her tears as she spoke of the horror her children endured, their three day walk to a refugee camp, and the fear that she will never again see her husband, who stayed behind to fight as a rebel.

And I cried with this mother, whose name I do not know. I cried for her children, who have witnessed things in recent days that no one should have to in their entire lives. I cried that somehow, out of sheer luck of the randomness of the universe, MY seven-year-old boys live in a part of the world where they do not have to even imagine the grown-up realities of chemical warfare, where they have enough food and clothing and shelter and they can play on myriad electronics and then whine that “it’s not fair” when they are told that it is time to put them away.

They are right. The world is not fair.

I dare you to recognize how unfair it is, and to acknowledge that in all likelihood, if you are able to read this right now, you are the beneficiary of such unfairness.

I dare you to be like my friends, Phyllis and Michael, who sat by the side of their seven-year-old son last night as he received a bone marrow transfusion. I dare you to look that kind of adversity in the eye and handle it with the grace and humility and humor and love that the Sommer family has demonstrated since Sam was first diagnosed over a year ago. Perhaps in their quieter moments, they lament “why us?” But publicly, they have only shown gratitude for the worldwide support that has come their way, the organizations who have helped them, the medical technology that gives them hope for the future, and the anonymous donor who has given them the greatest gift of all.*

So I dare you, as we approach this new year, to stop the Facebook Whine about your hard day at work (be thankful you are able to work and have a job to go to every day), the traffic (be thankful you have reliable transportation and are healthy enough to drive), how much housework you have (be thankful you have a home to keep clean), and especially your children (be thankful for their existence, every day, even though they drive you batty – they are kids and that is their job). I dare you to put it in perspective, and then see if it’s really so bad.

*if you would like to read more about Superman Sam vs. the Ninja Leukemia, you can do so here.

#blogelul 21: Change

“Mom, what is change?”

“It’s when you get something back.”

This question and answer were in reference to financial change. But really, doesn’t that define change in general? Don’t we get something back when we make an honest, concerted effort to change something in our lives?