Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Two of Us

With all the upheaval in our home, I've noticed how much my kids all love each other.

It makes my mama's heart so proud. It's what I want for them above almost anything else - to have their siblings as their bosom friends.

So now that there are only two at home...
(David got a wonderful weekend away with friends, and as you know...Sam is holed up at the hospital.)

The dynamics are quite different.
Yael has never been "the oldest," and in this new role, she is excelling.

She might be just a tad...bossy opinionated instructive to her little brother.

But it's beautiful to watch, since he is totally in love with her.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Memories of my Bubbie

My grandmother, Rose, died this week.
In the midst of all that is going on in our lives.
She was 96 years old, and she lived a wonderful life. She was one of my favorite people in the whole world.

When I was a kid, she was always around. She drove me to orthodontist appointments, made french toast, took me swimming, let me eat whatever I wanted, and basically was my biggest cheerleader. She taught me to bake - mandelbread, carrot cake, apple cake, and more...

She was always concerned for and about me - was I eating enough? Was I sleeping enough? Was I working too hard? And she was so darn proud of me. I always wanted to make sure I was worthy of her pride - she was, of course, completely unbiased!

Above all her life's blessings - she truly adored her grandchildren (me, of course!) and her great-grandchildren (there are actually others besides mine, but hey - this is my blog!)

A long life. I will miss her every day.

Taken this past Thanksgiving
At Solly's brit milah

May her memory shine brightly for a blessing.
Zichrona livracha.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Take the Old and Make it New, Take the New and Make it Holy

That title above (a little longer than a usual blog title), is one of my favorite Jewish ideas.

We are always looking at "old" things and bringing them into a new day.
Then we are tasked with bringing holiness into each new day, new idea, new plan.

About two years ago, I learned to do a 6-strand braided challah.
It makes perfect sense to me to braid 6 strands, one for each member of my family.
I braid in the love each week.

This is NOT a challah I made. Mine are never this pretty. So I borrowed this picture from Instructables rather than show off my somewhat embarrassingly funny looking challot. My challot taste wonderful. Someday I will master the art of beautiful appearance as well.
On Thursday night, I baked challah. I usually do it on Friday, but I knew that I was headed up to the hospital to spend Shabbat with Sam, and I wanted to take a challah with me. My regular recipe, from my friend Ruth Ross, makes two challot, but often I only bake one and freeze the second batch or make a set of cinnamon rolls for Shabbat morning. As I divided the dough in half and started rolling the strands, I realized how precious this shared challah was going to be.

Six strands, representing the members of our family...one batch split into two challot...eaten separately but spiritually together.

An old ritual - making challah.
Now made new by circumstances that I never ever imagined.
But yet...we find holiness, even in the newness.
In the darkness, we find light.
Even if it's only a piece of bread, it brings comfort.
If we don't look for the light, we're going to end up sitting in the dark.
So we eat challah and salt it with our tears....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nothing is the same

Many of you may know already, but things have changed for our family.
Our son, Sam, was diagnosed with leukemia.
It is rotten awful terrible SUCKS.

But since I'm nothing if not consistent...a blog has begun.
Superman Sam is open for business.
I want to tell Sam's story...for ourselves and our family and friends.

I hope the blog is really really really short.
And I am planning for a happy ending.

Thanks for joining me.
Thanks for loving us.
Thanks for everything.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Reading Suggestions

(I know that summer reading is usually light and fluffy…but here are four great books that will draw you in and keep you reading!)

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

 A really wonderful book (by one of my favorite authors) about the fall of Masada – from the perspective of four women. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to live in an experience that you knew was going to have a terrible end…and this book really made me feel like I was there. Even if you’ve never visited Masada, I think you will be able to feel the desert air!

Alice’s Piano: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer by Melissa Muller*
(Alice is not a relation, as far as I know!)

This book is a biography of the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. Alice was a great pianist, and she played all through the war in the "concert halls" of Theresienstadt. Her story of survival is truly remarkable, and I was uplifted by her story even in the midst of the sadness and despair. She talks a lot about Chopin's etudes that she played in concert in Theresienstadt and I had to take a few moments to look them up. I was amazed at the skill it takes to play those pieces.
Here she is, playing at the age of 106:

I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits*

If you have read or heard of the book Unorthodox, you might be interested to note that in some ways this is a fictional exploration of similar themes. This story is not quite as modern, however, as its main characters are child survivors of the Holocaust. The struggles of the post-war community and the yearning to replenish the Jewish people come into play in this page-turning story of love and loss. I could not put this book down - it was gripping and powerful. Although it could have been a condemnation of Chasidic Judaism, it didn't feel that way. The story explored hard themes within the Orthodox community but didn't only judge unfavorably, and for that I was grateful. This book has gotten a lot of press, and it is a worthwhile read! The writing is poetic and lovely, and the characters are rich and full.

My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner by Meir Shalev

Meir Shalev is an Israeli writer of fiction who now tells part of his family’s own story through his wonderful writing. His grandmother’s obsession with cleanliness leads to a gift of a big shiny American vacuum cleaner (which she calls a "svieeper" aka "sweeper") from a family member in the United States. But the vacuum gets dirty on the inside, she realizes, and so how could she ever use it!? A sweet and lovely memoir about life in the early days of the State of Israel, this book charmed me from the beginning!

*Disclosure: I received a review copy of each of these books but was not otherwise compensated for my reading. If you want to send me books, I like that. 

What are you planning to read this summer? I'm so excited for the new Daniel Silva book, the new Deborah Harkness book, and a whole bunch of other books that I can't wait to read! I also want to read Bloom and The Innocents and Let's Pretend this Never Happened.

Give me your best suggestions in the comments!