Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020 #mylifeinbooks



Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall - Predictable and boring. I actually put it down a couple of times and then went back to it. 

House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon - beautiful, moving. An incredible back-and-forth story of finding one's identity in a story that was really haunting. (Looking forward to discussing this one later this year!)

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan - I really enjoyed the Crazy Rich Asians series, but this one was disappointing. It felt like it wound around for a long time to an inevitable ending that didn't feel worth the wait.

The Braid by Laetitia Colombani - My dad recommended this one and I really enjoyed the intertwining stories of three different women. It took a little while to see how they all would come together, but I really liked how it didn't really beat you over the head with it. Subtle and lovely.

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams - I really enjoyed this one! A generational story that was a good read. I liked the insight into the different aspects of Russian history and how generational trauma carries through. And I loved the end.

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason - A fun, historical crime drama about attempts to silence Charles Darwin. Aside from the interesting period nature of the piece, I thought it was a good reminder that there have often been people who have tried to silence science....

Good Talk by Mira Jacob - WOW. I loved this graphic-novel-memoir about who we are, how we define ourselves, and how society defines us. With gratitude to the friend who shared it with me!

36 Righteous Men by Steven Pressfield - This was interesting. Someone described it as a fantasy-thriller, another called it apocalyptic-murder-mystery. It's set in the future, has an unusual writing format, and there's a Jewish theme too. I think it worked, but I'll be curious to hear how my discussion group likes this one later this year. Also - there's a huge climate change element in this story, and I read it as two hurricanes were bearing down on the Gulf Coast and fires rage in California, so there was that too. 

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett - This book was like a cross between The Handmaid's Tale and the Hunger Games....and I couldn't put it down. Teen girls spend one year banished to live in the wilderness. There's a Lord of the Flies element here too, and a whole bunch about female empowerment inside of a patriarchy. It's not for everyone, but it was really good.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel - Good, readable story about a French-Jewish woman who ends up working in the Resistance in France during the war. I'll fully admit that a back-and-forth story between past and present does take away some of the suspense in the story, but I still found it compelling and interesting. 

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie - this was a PJ Our Way book that came into our house and I like to read them to see what's going on over there. This one was cute and funny but not my favorite. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Prayer for the Start of a (Pandemic) School Year

In 2011, I wrote a prayer for the start of school.
(It's odd, since the child who started Pre-K that year is starting 8th grade this one.)

A friend recently asked if I'd updated this prayer for a new year, and I thought it was an excellent idea. More than ever, we need a little encouragement as we start this new school year, so fraught with uncertainty and strain. So many of us are worried and waiting, wondering and wishing. What will tomorrow bring? We don't know. So we put one foot in front of the other, act with patience, and pray that the new year brings promise.

A Prayer for the Start of our Pandemic School Year (hopefully never to be used again)

May it be a year of learning and growth, a year of new experiences and understanding. 
May they outgrow their shoes and may they not lose their masks. 
May the hand sanitizer be plentiful so their hands are clean, but may they have clean hearts too.
May each day bring something new and may routine guide their steps.
May they be flexible and resilient, with a strength far beyond their years.
May their pencils be sharp and their minds even sharper.
May the internet be strong, and the links be true.
May they revel in the joy of each new fact learned, each right answer, each small accomplishment.
May the erasers on their pencils get as much use as the tips, and may their chatroom comments be kind.
May they learn that wrong answers can be just as important as right ones.
May they ask questions, lots and lots of questions, and may their teachers be patient. Very patient.
May their teachers encourage their growth of spirit and may they see deeply into their eyes, even through the pixels of the screen.
May they make friends and build relationships, and may they make lifelong connections.
May they appreciate the little moments of connection and learn to find joy in their own company as well.
May they be kind and polite and each one a mensch of the highest order. 
May this year be a stepping stone, a moment in time, and may we take its lessons to heart as we find blessings along the way.

From delivering David to his freshman year at UIUC

Friday, August 21, 2020

#blogelul 1: prepare

 


Are we ever fully ready?
Each year, I notice that we're all
overwhelmed
busy
stressed

and we can't quite wrap our heads around the idea of
preparing
for
the
High
Holy
Days.

It's ominous.
They loom
large
over us.

But perhaps
preparation
is
a
gift
we give to ourselves.

When I take the time to
prepare myself
for the High Holy Days,
really
prepare
myself,
I know that
I am better.
The holidays are better.

I feel the words.
I breathe the music.
I do the work.

Preparation is a gift.

In Elul
we
unwrap
it.
(Reposted from 2016)

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com and on Instagram @imabima. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.http://imabima.blogspot.com/2020/08/blogelul-elulgram-2020.html

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Fold A Fitted Sheet: A Parenting Lesson

It started with the fitted sheet (XL twin, to be exact).

The whole room was tossed with bags and clothes and towels and miscellaneous pre-college stuff that clearly has to fit into the blue Ikea bags in order to get squeezed into the fun-size dorm room.

And there were two fitted sheets (one to use, one to wash, of course). 

"How do I fold this thing?"

And so we started - each of us with a sheet in hand, as I tried to walk him through the process of folding a fitted sheet. I could see his frustration growing. I could feel my own frustration growing too.

And then he started to panic. "I can't do it!" 

And then I started to panic: If he can't fold a fitted sheet, what else doesn't he know? What else isn't he ready for? If I haven't taught him to fold a fitted sheet, have I also failed to teach him all the Important Skills that he will need for his life? Is this evidence of a Disaster of Parenting? What other things doesn't he know? The thoughts tumbled, pell-mell, as I felt the tears rising. I tried, unsuccessfully, to teach him again. Tempers rose...

And then I took a breath.

Wait, I thought. Wait. This isn't the Everything. This is One Thing. Just ONE THING.

I took the sheet from him. I said, "don't worry - it's just a sheet." I could see the relief in his eyes. Perhaps his thoughts had taken the same path as mine? I folded the sheet. I'm his mom -- I can still do things for him. He watched intently and then took the sheet and shoved it unceremoniously into the already-full duffel bag. 

We've taught him to be brave and kind. We've taught him to be thoughtful and inquisitive. We've taught him to be careful and daring. We've taught him to have fun and to laugh. We've taught him how to cook and how to do (most) laundry. We've taught him how to make phone calls and how to fill out forms. He knows so much. And he knows how to ask for help when he needs it.

I may not feel ready to send him away in these uncertain times. But it's not because HE isn't ready. It's not because he hasn't learned so many important lessons. And when I remember that, when I look at the good human that he is, I know that he is ready...and so am I. 

Perhaps someday he'll even learn how to fold a fitted sheet.



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#BlogElul #ElulGram 2020

Is blogging still a thing? I’m sure it is!

#BlogElul is a project that I started in 2010, although it wasn't until 2012 that I created the list of topics. Since then, I haven't always completed the whole month of blogging, although I know that many of you have. I also know that the online world has changed so much since 2010, when blogging was one of the only ways to publish your online content easily. 


Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and other platforms...so many ways in which to express ourselves and dive deeply into the themes of the High Holy Days. And so here we are….I've added #ElulGram to the #BlogElul family and the borders of this project are so wide that they reallly don't exist at all. This project is really whatever YOU want - however YOU want to spend your time preparing yourself for the holiest season in the Jewish calendar. 


Elul -- that wonderful and terrifying month that precedes the High Holy Days. A month of introspection and considering, a month of personal reflection and preparation.


Who can participate? ANYONE. It's yours. I gift it to you. Elul is for anyone and everyone. 


How could one do it? You don't have a blog… No worries. Maybe you have Facebook or Twitter? Maybe you're a big fan of Instagram? Be creative and find your own path! Maybe you don't want to do it daily. Maybe you just want to dip your toe into the experience, or just read (and share?) what others write. It's totally up to you. I always love to see the creative things that the #BlogElul community comes up with.


There are no rules. I provide the topics (see graphic or below for text) for each of the days of the month. Use the hashtag to share your post (I like to put it in my titles) and share other people's posts as well. This could be a way to revitalize your blog, kickstart a new project, or even just get yourself ready for the holidays! I know that lots of people use #BlogElul as a spiritual exercise each year, and I'm so proud to be a part of their yearly journey through Elul.


And what about #ElulGram? This one is even more interpretive. Photos, art, illustrations, quotes -- what kinds of images can you put together to explore and interpret these High Holy Day themes? You don't have to limit your picture-sharing to Instagram (even though I totally appropriated the name), you can use any image-sharing site you'd like, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Whatever you do, tag it with #ElulGram so we can call share and follow.


These themes and ideas are broad and open, and again -- remember, there are NO RULES except the ones you make for yourself!


And yes, I know that the dates include Shabbat. I personally don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat, but I will post before and after Shabbat. You can do whatever you like!


Are you going to play along? Let me know! Leave me a comment here, send me a tweet, or send up a signal fire.... Feel free to grab my pretty badge to announce to the whole world that you're part of BlogElul. It is amazing to all share in the Elul journey together through the vastness of the internet.


I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you. Elul begins on Friday, August 21 (it's always on time), so I wanted to give you a head start if you're going to pre-write some of your posts. 


I hope that our shared preparation for 5780 brings meaning and hope, inspiration and enlightenment for all of us. 


Elul 1: Prepare

Elul 2: Act

Elul 3: Search

Elul 4: Understand

Elul 5: Accept

Elul 6: Know

Elul 7: Be

Elul 8: Hear

Elul 9: See

Elul 10: Count

Elul 11: Trust

Elul 12: Forgive

Elul 13: Remember

Elul 14: Learn

Elul 15: Change

Elul 16: Pray

Elul 17: Awaken

Elul 18: Ask

Elul 19: Judge

Elul 20: Dare

Elul 21: Love

Elul 22: End

Elul 23: Begin

Elul 24: Hope

Elul 25: Intend

Elul 26: Create

Elul 27: Bless

Elul 28: Give

Elul 29: Return


Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 Books #mylifeinbooks


The Girl from Berlin by Ronald Balson - okay, I've done it! I've read all the books so-far in this series. A tiny bit formualaic but I am not complaining. I loved it. Twisty and turny historical mystery.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare - what a gorgeous book. A young Nigerian girl finds her "voice" and the writing just pulled me along....I definitely highly recommend this one!

Cleo Macdougal Regrets Nothing by Alison Winn Scotch - This one was enjoyable and quick. It was almost like the fully-fictionalized version of Rodham!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - this book deserves all the buzz it's getting. It was really good, and I continue to think about it.

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner - I read a lot of Holocaust literature, and I often take a big deep breath before I start...this one had a little too much sweetness in it, but it was really beautiful and well-done.

The Order by Daniel Silva - What can I say? My favorite reading day of the year is when the newest Gabriel Allon book comes out and I was definitely not disappointed this year. I love the whole thing. More history of the Catholic Church than usual but well-researched and interesting! A perfect summer ritual.

The Royal We by Heather Cox - Hmm. I did not like this book. In fact, I gave it up once and then went back to it mostly because I really did want to find out what happened. I just thought the characters were pretty flat and the romance was not believable. Meh. I will not be reading the sequel....

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - So good! Deserving of all the buzz it's getting too. Plus, so many issues that are really relevant in my own neighborhood. I couldn't put this one down.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland - Really enjoyed this story of a period of American history that was so interesting. A few elements almsot wanted whole books of their own - the land bust in Florida, the incubator babies display in Atlantic City, the swimming of the English Channel, and yet there was enough to keep me reading and enjoying the snippets of each story. A really good read.

June's List
May's List
April's List

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020 Book #mylifeinbooks


So...here's June's books. I'm halfway through the year and WOW have there been a lot of great things to read so far this year. What are you reading? 

The Trust by Ronald Balson - perhaps you've noticed that I'm working my way through his books. I liked this one since it was a little different from the other books that feature Liam and Catherine. Set in Northern Ireland, it dives quite a bit into the conflicts there and the long lasting effects of those battles. I only have one of his books left to read before I've caught up to all of them!

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes - wow, this one was hard and sad and beautiful all at once. Reading in the wake of the current protests, thinking about George Flody and so many others killed by police, and bringing the Emmet Till story into the mix...it was really well-done. This is intended to be a middle-grade novel, but I'm not sure I would hand it to a kid without really having some hard conversations alongside it.

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi - I've read Ibram Kendi's book "How to be an Anti Racist" and several others, but I liked this "not-history" book, as the author puts it, because it was less of a prescription and far more of a how-did-we-get-here kind of book. It's the YA version of "Stamped from the Beginning" (which I haven't read) and I highly recommend it. So much history here that I just didn't know - so much about how the concept of race was constructed to keep, hold, and maintain power structures. So much to think about and to re-learn.

The Book of V by Anna Solomon - Anyone looking for a straightforward historical fiction re-telling of the Vashti/Esther narrarive will not find it here, but it was a really interesting back-and-forth look at how women have dealt with their powerlessness in different ways through history. It felt a little unfinished, a little unsatisfying, but still readable - the writing was great but I kept waiting for a real plot to develop...

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown - After listening to Austin speak on Brene Brown's podcast (highly recommend), I wanted to read her book and I was not disappointed. It was a highly personal memoir that really laid bare the exhaustion that Black people feel in America today. I think I want to re-read this one, and I've been recommending it all over (and above some of the other books on the anti-racism reading lists that are going around) because I found it so compelling and readable. So much to think about and to re-learn...I continue the work every day.

In Five Years by Rebecca Searle - hmm. I liked this book, ultimately, but I wasn't sure I liked it while I was reading it. I couldn't tell where it was going to go, but I think I appreciated where it ended up. This is a good summer read (even though it's a bit of tear-jerker too).

Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman - A quick read but I think this one will stick with me. Each character's perspective on a massive family grief experience cut through me. I kept thinking - that could have easily been our family.... Addiction of multiple kinds, death of a child, and a Bar Mitzvah - this one was a tough read but I recommend it.

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah - this reminded me of Room, and it was sweet and sad but also totally predictable in a comfortable-sweater type of way. I read this in one Shabbat mostly in my hammock, and that should tell you everything you need to know about this book!

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld - At first, I was a little put-off by the author choosing to write this book in the first person, since it was obviously not penned by the real person. But as the book progressed, I'm not sure I could have had it any other way. I was riveted by the what-might-have-been, but also by the way that women have to act in order to get to the top of their game. I thought it was a powerful statement about how hard it will actually be to get our country to elect the first woman president, and it faced, head on, some of those issues.

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass - preditctable, silly, and felt like a weird opposite-land to Rodham. I probably won't read any more of the books in this series (I can always find people to whom that is anathema) but I passed a lovely Shabbat afternoon in this book. So who's complaining?

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma - totally did not understand this book. I kept reading, hoping to understand and figure out the plot. But I just didn't get it. If you've read it, please help me. Also, I feel better now that I've read several other readers' reviews that say they didn't get it either. It had a really cool feel to the writing and the storytelling, I just didn't really follow it all!

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg - I usually read on a Kindle, and this may have been easier on a real book - I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of the different voices, but once I figured out their different styles/tones, I really enjoyed this one. A tough story about a mother and daughter told in an incredibly interesting style of a catalogue of a photography exhibit. Really great! (I almost burned dinner because I was distracted by reading...)

May's List
April's List
March's List
February's List
January's list